Where to park?
That's an agonizing thought undoubtedly on the mind of motorists as they circle around the Belmont County courthouse searching for an open space to park their cars. It's a problem that faces those who have business to attend in the courthouse as well as employees who work there.
There are times when motorists are seen circling the small parking area immediately behind the courthouse in a manner similar to drivers who circle around the parking lots at Ohio Valley Mall and the Ohio Valley Plaza, hoping to find a spot nearest the store entrances.
One big difference: There are plenty of parking spaces in those two retail outlets. Visitors to the courthouse as well as employees do not have that same luxury. The parking area immediately behind the courthouse and the one adjacent to it that borders Newell Avenue are almost always filled to capacity.
When both lots are jammed, drivers seek parking spots in front of the courthouse on National Road. That's a tough choice, too, because it is usually filled with cars, especially when there is a trial going on in the courthouse. Some are able to find one in the lot adjacent to the building on the opposite side of Newell Avenue where the offices of the public defender and flood plain coordinator are located. The parking problem gets real testy when that lot also is filled.
One county employee was a bit exasperated the other day as he walked to his parked car. But he wasn't going toward the lot behind the courthouse and I inquired why not. "I'm way down there," he shouted as he gestured toward the lot adjacent to the public defender office. "I can never find a place to park in there," he declared disgustedly, pointing to the two filled lots.
In recent weeks a few drivers have parked their vehicles in the vacant lot just north of the courthouse at the corner of Newell Avenue and North Market Street. It is owned by the county but just recently, yellow tape was strung blocking access to the lot from Newell Avenue. No-parking signs also have been posted, warning cars will be towed at the owner's expense.
The Belmont County commissioners had the barriers erected to prevent the grassy lot that has been vacant for years from being used for parking cars.
In the parking area immediately behind the courthouse there is space for no more than 55 cars. In the adjacent lot on Newell Avenue, there is space for 28 cars - provided some of the drivers parking there are considerate and do not park so as to take up two spaces.
There is a problem at the lot nearest Newell Avenue that could cause some of the parking spots to be lost because a retaining wall is in a state of collapse. Some of the railroad ties supporting the wall along Newell Avenue have broken loose. About a month ago the commissioners said they were aware of the slip and arrangements were being made to repair it.
Some department heads, judges and the county commissioners are not subject to those parking problems. They have reserved spots situated in the open space between the courthouse and the former Belmont County Jail.
Parking around the courthouse is not a new problem. It concerned the commissioners back in 1974 and they proceeded with an attempt to solve the problem by retaining a New Philadelphia architectural firm to draw up plans for a parking facility.
Those plans for a four-story parking garage, which would include space for some county offices and a high-level walkway connecting it to the courthouse, were completed but that's as far as the project got. For 48 years the plans have been collecting dust. There were reasons offered since then on why the project never reached fruition - the main one being lack of funding.
There was another attempt a half dozen years or so ago when the commissioners teamed with St. Clairsville City Council for a study and it, too, was completed but nothing ever done because of one major obstacle - financing.
Blueberry lovers who like to pick their own berries right off the vine can do so starting on Wednesday. Robert Keefer, owner of the Kilgore Fruit Farm located high atop the hill south of Kirkwood Heights, reports "a fairly good crop" of berries are available from his blueberry patch that spreads over several acres.
This year's crop is ripening a bit earlier than in previous years due in part from the recent weather conditions. But the main effect on the berries happened months ago. "There was no winter," Keefer exclaimed. He said it was a warm winter and there were only about four days when really freezing weather occurred. "That fouled up everything," he exclaimed.
From Wednesday and every day through the months of June and July, berries can be picked from 9 a.m. until dark. There will be no picking allowed on Sundays. First berries to be available will be the early crop. "We will also have a mid-season variety and other berries later," Keefer added.
Seeing heavy equipment and mounds of dirt piled up behind the St. Clairsville Post Office has given postal patrons and others the idea that perhaps the building housing the facility may be expanding or some other work on the buildings underway.
For the past four weeks the major improvement under way behind the Post Office involves correcting an earth slide. It is a project that requires funding of nearly $1 million to complete and it is not something that will improve or detract from mail service at the facility.
Bill Bellville, who took over as officer in charge of the St. Clairsville facility about nine months ago, said the parking lot behind the office "was sinking" and the hillside slippage was pushing against the foundation of the building. He said the project was undertaken to prevent damage to the Post Office foundation.
"The project was started four weeks ago and it'll be another four weeks before it is completed," he said. The Post Office parking lot was torn up to complete the project and Bellville added, "we had to also redo the parking area because of the slippage." The office's 20 vehicles are being parked elsewhere until the project is completed.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how the white squirrels haven't been around my yard for quite some time. I got a quick, short and to the point response on what happened to some of them.
"FYI: They have moved into our neighborhood on East Lawn," Attorney John Estadt informed me by email.
When you can hear the crackling of tar bubbles under the wheels of your car as you drive, it's uncontested evidence that it is extremely hot. That was the case on the first day of summer as I drove on some rural roads in Belmont County.
Mother Nature served up a real heat wave to start the new season. When summer arrived at 7:09 p.m. on Wednesday my trusty indoor/outdoor thermometer recorded the temperature at 92 degrees. There's always one sad note about the arrival of summer: the days begin slowly to get shorter and shorter, which means dreaded winter is not too far off.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: email@example.com.