From sunrise to sunset - and usually a few hours after dark - a dedicated group of men and women have been working feverishly the past few weeks finishing new additions, adding new attractions and conveniences, and creating an atmosphere that will make the 163rd edition of the Belmont County Fair and the third at the new location on Roscoe Road, an event that will thrill the most discriminating fairgoer.
Much of their work has been made possible through a helping hand offered by individuals and businesses that have provided funding as well as material and physical contributions to improve and expand facilities at the 16-acre fair site.
For example: A few weeks ago the Fair Board decided a bathhouse was urgently needed. Using his negotiation and persuasion expertise, board director Dave Jones began making contacts to get the building started. Initial estimates he received had the foundation and block work for the 60 X 100 foot building costing more than the fair could afford and also the work wouldn't be done in time for having the building in use for this year's fair.
With the assistance of fair board President Gerald Campbell, they got a better price "and we got the block building up in six and one half hours," Jones declared. Members of the fair board wasted no time in getting the building under roof.
Then from Tim Wojchowski, owner of Tim's Custom Installations in the Fox Commerce Park, came with a major contribution. "He has started putting in Corian on all the walls. He even agreed to put in the metal service fixtures and the dividing walls between in the shower stalls," Jones declared." And how much is that costing you? I asked. "He's donating it all."
When asked the the following day about his about his contribution, Wojchowski commented, "I just wanted to give something back to the community. The community has been very good to me."'
Earlier, Jones pointed out, the St. Clairsville Rotary Club donated $25,000 to the fair board, $20,000 of which went into the shower building. "This is really a big improvement for us, especially for the Junior Fair Board. I'm hoping we can have the building finished in time for the start of the fair next week."
Even before the project started, it was estimated the building would cost about $50,000. "Even with all that given to us, we already have over $50,000 invested in that building and it's still not done," Jones noted.
But fair board members are quite proud of the structure which has six shower stalls on each side for boys and girls and they are separated by Corian dividers. There are two handicapped showers on each side that are four feet wide; the regular stalls are two feet wide. There is a storage room between the shower rooms where the plumbing fixtures are easily accessible.
Financing for two other major improvements started last spring when the Belmont County Tourism Council approved a $50,000 grant for a 30-foot expansion of one building and a 24-foot addition to another.
For the many avid Motocross racing fans who have attended the event the past two years, the Fair Board went out on limb and purchased five portable bleachers at a cost of approximately $165,000. "We were able to deliver these bleachers ourselves and the nice part is they will be filled during the race events and then they can be easily moved to where they may be needed elsewhere in the fairgrounds," Jones said.
Board members are looking for some kind of miracle to complete a new goat barn. "We already have $40,000 invested in a new goat born but so far," Jones continued, "it has no doors, no electricity and no concrete floor."
They're hoping that most of the unfinished projects will be completed for the official opening Wednesday at noon at the Robinson stage at the main entrance. Six different musical groups have been lined up to present performances on each of the five days. There will be two high-impact motorsports demolition derbies on Wednesday and Sunday, two truck and tractor pulls on Thursday and Friday, Motocross racing on Saturday at 11 a.m., rides for kids and many, many other events, including a midway that will have an unlimited supply of food and refreshments.
The Belmont County commissioners and other county officials will be on hand for the official opening on Wednesday and on Friday the commissioners will hold a town hall meeting on the Robinson stage at 11 a.m.
An elaborate and lengthy presentation was made last week by the Department of Jobs & Family Services to reflect how it has physically and financially handled the Senior Citizens program it took over a year ago, but only two of the three commissioners were completely satisfied with the report.
Commissioner Ginny Favede, who was openly critical of the move by the DJFS in June to employ a communications specialist at a salary of $40,000 a year on the administrative staff, alleged following the meeting the county's senior citizens have become part of a "system" employed by the DJFS.
"It is with much disappointment that I discover much to my surprise that the seniors of Belmont County have become a part of the 'system.' I was never under the understanding that we would route our seniors through the Medicaid program and am shocked to discover that is indeed what is happening," Favede said in a statement following the Wednesday meeting.
"Our seniors," she continued, "who are identified as Medicaid eligible, who have for years been driven to their various doctors by Belmont Senior Services transportation vehicles and drivers are now not afforded that option as they are being routed through the Medicaid system and are being contracted out to the various fire departments for their transportation needs.
"When this transition was being made many seniors voiced their concern that they did not want to be part of the Job & Family Services department due to this very reason. I assured those concerned that that would not be the case. I discover (Wednesday) that I am wrong and even when questioning as to whether or not the seniors could have a choice I was told they would not.
"I do not support this action and feel strongly that the seniors of Belmont County do not deserve to be treated in this manner. I do not agree that we should separate and quantify what care the seniors receive based upon their financial condition. The good people of Belmont County have always generously supported senior service levies so that our seniors could receive the care they need and deserve."
The county has three senior services levies in effect that produce $3.2 million annually. One of them - a one-mill levy that produces more than $1 million annually - is up for renewal at the Nov. 6 general election.
People living in the flash flood prone sections of Belmont County remember very well the devastation that resulted the last time a hurricane with a name that started with the letter "I" came through this area.
That was in 2004 and the hurricane was Ivan. It poured down a torrential deluge of flash-flood producing rain over the entire county. Today another "I" hurricane that has been downgraded to a tropical storm - Isaac - is expected to arrive here today or tomorrow but the indications late last week were that perhaps a considerable amount of rain might fall but nothing like that brought by hurricane Ivan.
That word comes from a man named Ivan - Dave Ivan, director of the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency - who said the early prediction for Isaac were that it would bring from one-half inch to two inches of rain to this area by Wednesday. But Ivan cautioned too many factors have to be considered and anything could happen. From his experience with storms like Isaac or any hurricane, their course can change from hour to hour let alone from day to day.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.