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New Tenants to Help Sales Tax Revenue at The Highlands

WHEELING – Closures at The Highlands are costing the Ohio County Development Authority sales tax revenue, but officials expect those losses will reverse during the second half of this year as Menards and six other new tenants are expected to open at the development.

Among the new tenants at The Highlands will be a DiCarlo’s PIzza, as the OCDA approved a lease agreement with the popular local eatery Tuesday night.

Sales tax revenue overall will be down about $1.5 million this fiscal year as a result of the closure of businesses at The Highlands due to the coronavirus, according to County Administrator Greg Stewart.

“As we all can expect, with our last 90 days of (closed) activities), our sales tax revenues are down — but not as much as you might think,” Stewart said. “The good news is Menards is coming online in the next 60 days, and we’ll also be adding Chipotle and Aspen Dental in the next 60 days. I feel very confident we will very much make up any sales tax revenue we’ve lost during the closure period.

“We’re not anywhere near about making the annual debt service payment. We will be in as good a shape or better than we were when we finished up the last calendar year.”

March sales tax revenues at The Highlands were down slightly from March 2019 as stores began to close in the middle of the month, Stewart said.Those that remained open, such as Walmart and Target, profited as buyers purchased large quantities of household items.

Profits then fell off in April after shoppers stocked up and stayed home, according to Stewart.

The new DiCarlo’s restaurant is to be located in the West Liberty University’s Highlands Center building in the spot previously occupied by Mooey’s Frozen Yogurt. Details about the lease agreement approved by the OCDA were not made public Tuesday night.

As for Menards, Stewart said the retailer “hopefully will open soon.” He and Commissioner Randy Wharton, president of the OCDA, said Menards has hired a general manager, and is presently hiring for other positions and stocking shelves.

A second lease agreement was approved Tuesday for the Amedisys health care services company. Another business expected to open soon at The Highlands is a Chipotle restaurant.

Construction on the Ohio County Sports Complex is about 85 percent complete, and should be 100 percent finished by June 15, according to Stewart.

Ohio County also is in need of poll workers for the upcoming June 9 primary election, Commission President Tim McCormick said. Five poll workers are needed at each of Ohio County’s 36 precincts, and there is an equal need for Democrats and Republicans, he said.

Those working Election Day would work a shift beginning at 5:30 a.m. and lasting until about 8 p.m. They will receive a pay up to $200, and will be supplied with masks, hand sanitizer and gloves for the day.

Ohio County residents interested in working the polls should call the commission office at 304-234-3750.

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