When Carl Sparks arrived in Belmont County with a 7-man work crew from Evansville, Ind. to undertake renovation of a building that will house a new Ohio Valley Mall business, he ran into one major problem: He couldn't find a place to sleep.
"All of your motels were filled. I couldn't find a room. Things are really locked up around here," Sparks declared. "I had to drive 40 miles to find a place."
Sparks is owner of Sparks Contracting, a firm retained by Rural King Supply of Matloon, Ill., to begin the renovation of the mall perimeter building that it plans to occupy within the next three months.
Almost simultaneous with the contractor's arrival, representatives of Rural King made local contacts seeking to employ personnel to operate its outlet which features the sale of farm equipment and supplies, lawn and garden supplies, housewares, clothing and more.
Mike Schlanz, director of the Belmont County Connections office in Martins Ferry, reported Rural King officials relayed information they needed two assistant managers, a receiving manager and an office manager, and eventually will also be looking for additional employees such as department heads, sales clerks, cashiers, etc.
Sparks said his crew should have their work completed in two or three weeks. "We're just doing the basic work. They'll do the rest." His crew is ripping up the old tile floor in the 80,000 square foot building and will replace it. "We'll paint the walls and that's about it."
But he said there will be plenty of work for electricians and other trades before the building is ready to be occupied. He added the building is in need of a new roof. He said local and state building inspectors already have conducted inspections of the premises which previously had been occupied by Sibs antique outlet and prior to that Hills and Ames department stores.
A forgotten piece of real estate is going to start paying dividends for Belmont County.
For more than three quarters of a century Belmont County has owned a piece of property that measures just over a half acre in size in a remote section of the county. The current board of commissioners had no idea it owned the property and apparently neither did previous boards of commissioners or other county officials over the past 80 years.
Ownership of the property came to light during the energy exploration boom when big oil and gas firms were seeking leases on thousands of acres of property to eventually conduct drilling operations in the Marcellus and Utica Shale in Belmont County.
Ten days ago the Belmont County commissioners approved entering into a lease with Gulfport Energy Corp. for a three-year term for 0.57 acres located in Kirkwood Township in the northwestern section of Belmont County.
That small plot of ground is situated virtually in the center of hundreds of acres of land owned by Eagle Creek Farm Properties and under the agreement prepared for the site will bring the county a share of $5,000 lease payment an acre. And the county will also profit from 20 percent royalty agreed to by Gulfport. Obviously, the lease and royalty payments, if there are any, are not going to provide the commissioners with enough money that would require revising its annual budget.
The agreement between Gulfport and the commissioners runs for a three-year period. However, after that three-year period Gulfport reserves the right to drill deeper than 100 feet below the deepest formation penetrated by the firm. No depth drilling will actually be done on the county's land which will be solely affected by horizontal drilling.
None of the county officials today or those who have been in office since the 1930s has been aware of owning that small plot of ground. And probably neither did the owners of Eagle Creek Farm until the Gulfport abstractors began their work to seek leases on the vast acreage the Farm owns. According to maps accompanying the county agreement, the property lies in the vast area between Hendrysburg and Piedmont Lake.
County ownership of the 0.57 acre plot of ground was uncovered in the auditor's record book of 1925-30. Margaret Campbell et al conveyed the property to the Belmont County commissioners.But the deed was lost and not recorded. It was exempted by order of the state examiner.
The magnificent "Great Stone Viaduct" in Bellaire - the railroad span that has been the centerpiece of The All American City for 141 years - will draw the attention of railroad enthusiasts, historians and local residents during a charter year celebration planned for Saturday by a newly formed organization, "Great Stone Viaduct Historical Education Society, Inc."
Founded by a group of dedicated residents during the past year, the society has as its goal to preserve both the history and the structure of the span that was constructed following the Civil War to carry railroad traffic high above the city from Ohio into West Virginia at Benwood. There are 43 stone arches making up the Ohio side approach to the bridge crossing the Ohio River.
Festivities will begin at 8 a.m. when exhibitors and vendors will set up shop in the community room at the Mellot Memorial library. A wide variety of activities are planned for the event including such things a street railroad ride for children and the crafts and exhibits for adults.
A speaking program will begin at 10 a.m., opening with an address by John P. Hanley, author and historian and former curator of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. A talk by Roger Pickenpaugh, author and historian, on Civil War troop movements by rail will also be presented before a noon luncheon break and walking tour of the viaduct.
The program will resume at 2 p.m. with a talk by attorney Daniel L. Frizzi of Bellaire, author and local historian, who was a leading proponent of establishing the Society to preserve the identity of the viaduct. His talk will be on "Construction of the Great Stone Viaduct." A concluding talk will be given by Greg Levy of Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad on current rail operations.
The admission fee includes a box lunch in addition to participation in the other events. To become a charter member of the Great Stone Viaduct Historical Education Society, a dues payment of $50 will include free admission, fee box lunch and a free matted water color of the viaduct.
Have you consulted an esthestician lately?
Relocating her office from the Banfield Road area to downtown St. Clairsville, Roseann Lipniskis, a licensed esthestician and also a registered nurse, is hoping to expand her business. "Now that I have a larger, more spacious place," she says, "I would really like to increase clientele but maintain the personal touch that my clients appreciate."
She has been stationed at Ohio Valley Medical Center for 40 years as an RN but 10 years ago also became interested in skin care, obtained a manager's license and started her own business. She plans to offer many types of facial treatments that will be administered "in a lovely private setting" at her new location at 168 E. Main St.
In last week's column we noted that gasoline prices the previous week had increased by at least 21 cents a gallon. That was written on Thursday and before the item went to press for last Sunday's edition, another 20-cent hike went into effect, making the total price increase in gasoline in less than one week of at least 41 cents a gallon. As we've said before, the price goes up a lot faster than it comes down. Fortunately some stations last week lowered the price by 10 cents.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org