With an increase in shale gas production activity in Belmont County comes an increase in the number of workers being attracted to the county from out of this area and that leads to an increase in the number of places being developed to provide housing for those new residents.
Work has been under way for several weeks to develop a 5.1-acre site on National Road about two miles east of Morristown to transform it into an RV park that will be capable of providing spaces for 70 recreational vehicles or campers.
Savage Construction Co. is doing the site preparation on the property owned by Dean and Susan Miller. "We bought this property three years ago to have a place for our children to build homes if they wanted to," Mrs. Miller said.
But their children found homes in other parts of the county. "This opportunity came along so we decided to go with it." She said they were told the oil and gas workers and the pipeliners were heading west from West Virginia and Pennsylvania to Belmont County where the shale gas business is on the upswing.
"This will be a good place for them to settle," Miller said, "because we have water and sewage, all the necessary permits to establish an RV park and we're close to a fine restaurant." Chapz Restaurant is located almost across National Road from the proposed temporary housing site.
Miller said an early March opening for the park is anticipated.
The RV Park is the second one to be established in the area near Morristown. Forty-five recreational vehicles and campers are already occupying a portion of a park site opposite the Doan Ford agency on Ohio 149 and expansion is currently under way. It is located approximately 2 miles west of the park being developed by the Millers.
"We're in the process of completing work on 39 more places next to the 45 that are already in place," said James Grear, spokesman for a group of businessmen who undertook the establishment of the park last year when there came an increased demand for housing with the oil and gas boom in the county.
"These new spots should be up and coming and ready for occupancy in a couple of weeks," Grear noted. The new spaces would increase the total number to 84 and there would be ample room for additional expansion. On the 20-acre site made available by the Doan family for the park, there is space for 275 RVs and campers. Grear indicated if there is a demand, additional sites will be developed.
Belmont County is gaining another welcome and valuable contribution from the shale gas developers in the county. Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett revealed the county has already received more than a half million dollars in road paving projects from two of the drilling companies operating in the county.
Bennett noted Gulfport Energy Corp. paid for the resurfacing of 3.91 miles of County Highway 128, better known as the Boston Road, located southwest of Barnesville. "If we had done the project it would have cost roughly $320,000," Bennett said. He said the project involved putting down one and one-half inches of asphalt.
"They (Gulfport) decided to pave the road rather than having to keep making costly repairs," Bennett said. It was revealed last week that Gulfport's Stutzman Utica shale well could be producing about $100,000 worth of revenue a day. That operation is located southwest of Barnesville.
Bennett also noted that Hess Oil Resources paid to have .02 of a mile of the Lloydsville-Bannock Road resurfaced and also one-quarter of a mile of the adjoining Bruce-Clark township road. Each of those projects would have cost the county $100,000 to complete. That adds up to roughly $520,000 worth of road improvements the county did not have to pay for.
There were exceptions for doing those three projects. "Normally after Thanksgiving, roads are not resurfaced," Bennett said. But these projects were an exception because the two companies did not want to wait until spring. They wanted paved roads for their trucks and other vehicles to use. In these two Hess projects, a 5-inch layer of asphalt was applied to the roads.
The Hess firm in December also entered into a roadway use and maintenance agreement with the county for use of 1.4 miles of County Road 64, the Shepherdstown Road for ingress and egress from the Short Creek B well site. The company posted a bond of $100,000 for use of the road.
Non- profit organizations in Belmont County that apply for grants from the Belmont County Tourism Council to promote tourism related events or activities may qualify for up to a maximum of $3,000 rather than the $2,500 that has been in effect in previous years.
At its meeting in January, the council agreed to raise the individual maximum amount to $3,000. But letters to prospective applicants had already been sent out and contained the grant limit as $2,500. So the council agreed to use its discretion in awarding the higher amount when it reviews the applications that are submitted.
Applications for the grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 must be received by the council by Feb. 28. Grant requests will then be studied and awards doled out in March. Organizations must use the grants specifically for the project spelled out in the application and documentation for the project expenditures must be submitted to the tourism council.
There will be polka music and dancing in the aisles at Riesbeck's Food Market in St. Clairsville on Saturday.
This is the time of year when everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the Polish delicacy known as "Paczki," pronounced as "poonch-key." They are the Polish pastry served during the period preceding the observance of Lent. They resemble a doughnut, but instead of a hole, the sugar-coated doughball is filled with apricot, raspberry, Bavarian cream, prune, or poppy seed.
Each year Riesbeck's, where the pastries are prepared in their own bakery, stages a "Paczki Ball" to celebrate the occasion. Charlie Tansek of Canton, popular Polish musician whose band has played at numerous dances in this area, will be at the store between 1-4 p.m. to entertain customers with his Polish renditions while they do their shopping. And store officials say there will be no restriction on customers who might want to take a break and swing into a lively polka dance.
By the way, the paczki are delicious. I know. I've already had them. But store officials offer a cautious word about them. "Don't ask about the calories. You just don't want to know."
There's one less eating establishment in the Ohio Valley Mall complex. On Jan. 19 the Quiznos restaurant located on the Mall Ring Road near the main entrance to the retail center suddenly closed its doors.
No indication was offered by the owners, James and Nancy Combs of St. Clairsville, as to why the action was taken. A sign on the restaurant entrance directed potential customers to one of the five other Quiznos restaurants in this area. Nancy Combs stated only that, "It's closed. That's all I have to say."
A separate building in the mall complex was constructed early in 2007 for two businesses. Starbucks continues to occupy 1,800 square feet of the building. Quiznos had occupied 1,700 square feet.
Within the span of a week, motorists lost the slight gains made in gasoline prices at the start of this year. An increase of 10 cents a gallon at most stations was followed by another hike of 15 cents a gallon a few days later. Before the rapid spike in the price, a gallon of unleaded regular had lowered to $3.19. But the steady climb since then has shot the price to $3.599 or higher at some stations.
Al Molnar can be reach via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 740 695-5233.