A massive earthmoving project is underway just off historic National Road just east of St. Clairsville for construction of a new motel to accommodate the anticipated influx of officials and workers from distant places involved in the oil and gas exploration activity in Belmont County.
For the past two weeks, huge earthmoving equipment has been working on the steep hillside just north of Interstate 70 in an area that provides a birds-eye view of the entire Ohio Valley Mall and Ohio Valley Plaza retail complex.
Norco Construction Co. of Summersville, W.Va., is doing the site preparation work for construction of a Microtel Inn & Suites. The firm is the same one which recently completed construction of an 85-unit Microtel Inn & Suites at the Highlands retail center across the Ohio River east of Wheeling. It opened for business three weeks ago.
Reggie Brogan of Summersville, project superintendent, said 30,000 cubic yards of earth must be moved to clear the site for the new structure. The earth is being hauled by truck down the steep slope and being deposited about 100 yards north of I-70.
He said a sediment pond is being developed on that lower level bordering the interstate to handle the water runoff from the new Microtel Inn, the Hampton Inn and from the huge parking lots of the two structures. The sediment pond is being developed under the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Brogan estimated the earthmoving work should take about a month to complete. "I don't have to wait for the excavation to be completed to start work on the building. I hope to start the footer work in three weeks." The new structure will be located immediately west of the Hampton Inn. It is close enough that the Hampton Inn's outdoor swimming pool had to be closed since access to the site goes right past the pool and construction equipment and material is stored right next to it.
Six employees - truck and equipment operators - are doing the earth moving phase of the job but when actual construction starts, Brogan said "there'll be anywhere from 50 to 60 men on the job."
The new Inn will be similar in size and construction to the Highlands unit. "It's a four-story building. It'll have 41 suites, seven single rooms and the rest double rooms." And Brogan stressed construction is on a set timetable just as it was on the Highlands project where he also was the superintendent. "It should be finished in eight months, just like the one over there (The Highlands)."
By early next year there should be two new motels doing business in Belmont County as well as a newly developed RV/camper park that already has 25 family occupants and space for many more.
About a mile east of where the Microtel Inn & Suites is being developed, construction is well underway on a 55-room Comfort Inn to replace the smaller Relax Inn that was razed in March to make way for the new, larger facility. Bedway Development Corp. of Morristown is the contractor and occupancy is anticipated by November.
In May, development of an RV/Camper site in Morristown was started to provide temporary residential quarters for workers lured into the area by the sudden development of the oil/gas operations. James Grear, a member of the site's management team, said 45 spots have been developed in the first phase of the project and another 39 will be available in the second stage, already started. Work has been completed on extending water and sewer lines into the 20-acre area located situated between the Doan Ford car agency on Ohio 149 and the Ohio Department of Transportation county garage. And if all goes as scheduled, the new Microtel facility will be accepting guests in March.
Walking through the corridors of the Ohio Valley Mall can give one the feeling of being in the middle of some kind of huge, new-fangled board game. Like the flat surface of a board game, the mall floor is covered with all kinds of directional signals, just like a game where the player advances one or two blocks at a time. But there's no dice throwing to determine the next move.
There are red, green and orange colors that form squares, rectangles and circles; there are straight, diagonal, curved and dotted arrows and lines of all three colors, some of them crossing through squares, some through circles and some just standing alone designating the next spot on the floor where some work is to be done.
Painted beside some of the dotted lines and arrows are numbers like 2, 2.5, 3.5, 10, etc. Most of them are large and painted red so that they can be easily seen. Smaller numbers are written in black ink in many spots. Then there are several large areas and some smaller ones surrounded by wooden barriers to keep shoppers from walking into work areas.
Many other markers are painted on the tile floor but to the shoppers they mean nothing and they are ignored. The patrons of the mall are not participants in the "game." The players are the work crews involved in the multi-million dollar renovation of the huge shopping center. Those workers, most of whom start their work sessions after the mall closes, are the "players." They can decipher the codes to determine what phase of the multi-million dollar project is to be undertaken next.
Workers follow the painted markers to cut through the six-inch thick concrete floor of the mall and then electricians go to work to bury the power lines in the ground. Putting the entire electrical system underground allows the elimination of metal conduits that presently go from the floor to the ceiling. "Fixing the electrical system is the biggest cost involved in this project," commented mall manager George Diab.
"There is a crew of 30 to 35 workers who work at night," explained Frank Manchi, superintendent of the renovation project for B&B Contractors of Youngstown - the firm retained by the Cafaro Co., owners of the mall - to carry out the biggest improvement in the retail center since it was opened in 1979. "They work 10 hours a day from Monday through Thursday."
Manchi said he has smaller work crews on the job during the day but they are located in places where they do not come in contact with the mall shoppers. Some of their work involves renovating the mall offices, public restrooms and the community room. For the past month Diab and his staff have been working out of a temporary office in one of the vacant stores.
One big change in the mall layout occurred last week when the Ohio Lottery booth was moved from its location right off the main court to a temporary spot near the Macy's court.
When the crew is working at night, plastic curtains are hung from ceiling to the floor to protect businesses from the dust. "We work from 9 to 7 in the morning. Then we clean up." Dust control measures are always in effect. "There are plastic curtains lowered from the ceiling in the particular areas where we are working to protect the businesses," Manchi observed.
Although there are signs proclaiming "Pardon Our Dust" located in various places throughout the mall, the dust problem is virtually non-existent when the first store employees and shoppers arrive in the morning. "That's because I crack the whip," Manchi chuckled, "and get the place clean."
Farmers in the local area have been affected by the recent drought conditions but not as severely as the disastrous effect it has had on those in the Midwest. The effect locally has been that while the sweet corn is as delicious as usual, the ears are not quite as big because of the lack of rain. But with a good long drenching rain, Jerry Ebbert, owner of Ebbert's Farm Market on National Road, east of St.Clairsville, said that problem could be solved.
A day after Ebbert commented on the lack of rain, there came a big storm that produced a lot of rain in a hurry.
But it was followed by what Ebbert said would be most beneficial a lengthy soaking rain. "If we get the rain the corn will be fully developed," he noted. "We have a late crop that really needs the rain." And it came.
Bob Kilgore, owner of the popular Kilgore Fruit Farm south of Kirkwood Heights, had some bad news and some good news for blueberry lovers. The bad news was his early crop of blueberries is all gone but there is a new, midseason crop which he said "are larger berries and more prolific - easier to pick."
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.