A road project that should improve traffic access to the Ohio Valley Mall as well as the traffic flow in the vicinity of the mall and the Ohio Valley Plaza is off to a fast start and should be completed well before the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing.
Adding an additional lane to the access ramp from westbound I-70 to Mall Road in the mall/plaza area is the main focus of the project which, according to Ohio Department of Transportation construction supervisor Jim Graham, will include a complete revision and upgrade of the traffic light system at the intersection where the ramp connects to Mall Road.
In addition, Graham said the project will also include widening and otherwise improving the access road on opposite side of the interchange near the Denny's Restaurant. The change will make it much easier for traffic to move north and south on Mall Road as well as going straight through to I-70 westbound.
Shelley & Sands Inc. has the $880,000 contract for the road improvements.
Getting 280 volunteer workers and also 60 to 100 high school students lined up to work at the polls during a primary or general election is a tedious and taxing project that can produce more than just a slight headache for the responsible individual.
For the past eight years the person saddled with that job has been Denise Robinson of Martins Ferry, a clerk at the Belmont County Board of Elections in St. Clairsville. Having personal knowledge of how quickly problems can erupt, my first tongue-in-cheek question for Robinson was whether getting the workers was a job that could cause one nightmares. "Sometimes," she quickly answered in a jesting tone of voice.
It is obvious from talking to Robinson that she enjoys her job, even though at times some nerve-wracking, last minute problems erupt that require quick action. She recalled one such case just a year ago. "On the day before the election, two presiding judges called and said they could not make it." That meant in less than 24 hours she had to find two replacements and give them the required training to fill the vacancies.
She has found that most people who volunteer to be poll workers do it because they enjoy the work. They don't do it strictly for the money. That goes without saying because for the 13-hour day they work, their pay comes to $102. The work day is a little longer for the presiding judges, who must deliver the vote results and return all election material to the board of elections office before they can call it a day. The poll workers also receive $35 for attending poll worker school. It is a three- hour course taught by Robinson and board director Bill Shubat.
"Some of our elder citizens are actually honored that they have been asked to work. They enjoy it," Robinson has learned from past experience. "It gives them a chance to see people and friends they haven't seen in a long time. And they enjoy meeting new people." And that can result in the polling place being transformed into a friendly get-together when the polls are not busy. That doesn't happen too often.
For the past several weeks Robinson has been contacting both Democrat and Republican prospects to work during what is expected to be a very busy Nov. 6 presidential election - the third one that Robinson has worked since she started employment as a board clerk in 2004.
A couple of weeks ago she sent out notifications in the mail to the prospective workers notifying them of the dates and times for the training sessions in October. She also sent out a stack of letters to teachers of government in high schools in Belmont County seeking their assistance in getting the names of 60 to 100 students interested in expanding their knowledge of the election process by working the polls in November.
"The teachers have cooperated with us and recommended students who are truly interested and capable of working at the polls. Having the students there to perform various duties has worked out just great in the past. They help out a lot. And they are sharp," Robinson declared.
Robinson has found that teaching them the ins and outs of being a precinct worker is a snap. "They are already computerliterate," Robinson exclaimed, "so the instructions come easy for them. They enjoy the work and are a great help"
The parking situation behind the Belmont County courthouse is not going to improve any time in the immediate future. Two bids submitted for reconstructing the lot that has two crumbling retaining walls supporting it have been rejected by the Belmont County commissioners because they exceeded cost estimates.
Bill Street of Street Engineering & Surveying of St. Clairsville, project engineer, set an estimate of $140,000 for the work that has to be done. At a bid opening last month, Ohio West Virginia Excavating bid $169,493 and Lash Paving Inc. of Colerain bid $163,915.45.
Commissioners were forced to reject the bids because both were in excess of 10 percent of the estimate for the project as required by state law.
"Do you know how dangerous it is?"
Glenn Maxwell of Dixon Run Road was asking the Belmont County commissioners if they were aware of the treacherous driving conditions on county highway 214 because of the absence of center and edge lines. Driving the road that goes south from Blaine Hill on National Road to Bellaire even during the day is dangerous but at night, Maxwell said, it is almost impossible to drive because painted lines are not there to guide drivers.
"You need to dig in and find money to do some striping on this road," Maxwell exclaimed. "I nearly got hit a couple of times." Maxwell said once before he had approached county officials about getting lane markers painted on the roadway but nothing happened. "Do it before winter," he urged the commissioners.
Commission president Chuck Probst agreed with Maxwell and pointed out that he has looked into getting that project accomplished and learned that striping the center and edge lines would cost $250,000. Probst said he has attempted to get funds appropriated for the project but has been thwarted because of the county's financial status.
Commissionr Matt Coffland supported Probst's contention as he told Maxwell, "I agree with you that the road needs lines." But Coffland stressed that with "all the cuts in local government funding it has been difficult to get things done."
Likewise, there was no disputing Maxwell's claims from commissioner Ginny Favede who said the issue has been discussed in the past along with the possibility of the county engineer purchasing a striping machine to do the project himself. The matter never progressed beyond the talking stage.
First-hand reports from delegates and other party faithful returning from last week's Democratic National Convention are expected to abound as Belmont County's Democrats gather for their annual picnic from 1-5 p.m. today at the Fairpoint Polish Club. Party chairman Gordie Longshaw said the anticipated appearance of Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, as guest speaker did not materialize due to Roberts' other commitments.
Longshaw noted the picnic will also serve as the kickoff for ticket sales for the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on Oct. 4 at Undo's Restaurant. Longshaw said he had contacted U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to serve as guest speaker at the dinner but received regrets due to his schedule conflicts on that date. "I am attempting to contact former Gov. Ted Strickland in hopes of having him serve as the guest speaker," Longshaw added.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.