There is little doubt that one of the busiest offices in Belmont County this year has been the recorder's office in the courthouse. It has been literally jammed every day by abstractors searching records for the oil and gas companies that have been lured into the county by the rich deposits in the Marcellus and Utica shale.
"And it hasn't let up for the holidays," exclaimed Recorder Mary Catherine Nixon in a rather tired fashion as she poured over records in her office.
Space is limited in the office, which means the crowd of record searchers has to squeeze by one another to retrieve deed books and then do more squeezing to find space on the crowded tables to do their search work. Nixon has strict rules that none of the deed books are to be removed from her office.
Some abstractors, however, have beat the "system," but in so doing have created a problem elsewhere. A number of them use cameras to photograph the pages of the voluminous deed books and then saunter right across National Road to the more comfortable and spacious confines of the St. Clairsville Public Library to do their research work.
The library also has wireless connections for the abstractors to use their personal computers to do their work. There are a half dozen or so tables in the library and I've been in there a few times when almost every available space was occupied.
That's where the second problem arises. "We have had some complaints from our regular library customers over the lack of space for them," explained Richelle Klug, director of the St. Clairsville Public Library. "It's nice that we have more bodies in the library," Klug noted, "but we have limited space and some regular library users have complained."
She has noticed also that over the past few months, some of the regular library users haven't been coming to the library as often as previously. And when they do come, they stay only a short time - probably because of the crowded conditions - and then leave.
Klug said the crowded condition created by the oil/gas workers has been brought to the attention of the library board "and they have been trying to make some small adjustments." But there's only so much that can be done in the limited amount of space available.
And the library doesn't collect a cent from anyone for the convenience and space it provides the workers who are employed by the gas and oil companies to gather information needed to prepare lease documents to the land where the Marcellus and Utica shale oil and gas deposits eventually are to be extracted.
The St. Clairsville library is in a predicament that none of the other libraries in neighboring counties where rich shale deposits exist face. "Our library sees the steady traffic because we're right across the street from the courthouse," Klug noted. In other counties with similar problems in recorder's offices, the libraries are some distance from the courthouse and not as easily accessible.
Not knowing how long the condition might exist is being considered in trying to solve the problem. "It could be six months or it could last six years," Klug asserted. But the problem has the attention of not only the library board but the many who use the facility regularly.
"We're working on a solution," Klug emphasized.
There's an "albino Bambi" in the thick wooded area up the steep hill from Wheeling Hospital.
Hospital employees and those at its continuous care center as well as visitors have managed to get a glimpse of the colorless creature as it prances through the woods. But one day recently the white fawn stood still long enough for my son, Greg, to photograph it.
"I was up on the road behind the hospital checking out the location for a fiber optic cable when I spotted it," Greg told me. "I stopped my car, backed up to get a better look and then got out to take the picture. It didn't move. It just stood there staring at me." He said the albino's mother stood beside her fawn the whole time and made no attempt to move.
Last year during the Christmas season my travels took me to neighboring Guernsey County to take a ride on the Byesville Scenic Railway, which runs through an area dotted with coal mines that were the lifeblood of the community and county, during the years preceding World War II.
It was an interesting, entertaining and educational trip that I intended to take again this year, especially since the promoters of the tourist attraction provided me with two tickets to join them again.
That never happened. Seems that earlier this year the Byesville Scenic Railway suspended its passenger service because of a problem the railway group was having in negotiating with the track owner from Sugarcreek over the purchase of the section of track used for the 10-mile excursion.
In a release concerning the track purchase, it was stated that a sale price was reached in August 2011 and all parties agreed to complete the deal in October of 2011 and all attempts to close the deal have been ignored by the track owner.
Tim Brown, president of the Byesville Scenic Railway, said the railway board was shocked by the track owner's action in not approving the sale but added negotiations will continue to hopefully resolve the situation and resume passenger service.
An example of how the oil and gas company workers and pipeliners have boosted the economy of the area took place in a conversation overheard in a jewelry store at the Ohio Valley Mall. Two men, one who said he was working on a pipeline and the other with one of the gas companies, warmly greeted each other and talked about their jobs as they looked over gifts they intended to purchase. Their conversation was loud enough for all to hear.
They stopped chatting only briefly as each of them picked out the piece of jewelry they planned as Christmas gifts for their wives. One forked out over $1,100 in cash and the other put up over $900 for his gift. They left to return to their jobs.
That sales girl had to be real pleased with her efforts - over $2,100 in sales in about 10 minutes.
A company based in Cadiz that intends to install a gas pipeline in the western part of Belmont County has posted a $5 million bond to cover repairs and maintenance of four county roads the firm will to use in completing the project.
Ohio Gathering Co. LLC intends to construct, operate and maintain pipeline and compression projects and infrastructure that extend through Kirkwood, Warren, Goshen and Union township and into Harrison County where a Utica shale plant is under construction.
Under the agreement approved by the Belmont County commissioners, the firm intends to use 2.95 miles of county road 26, 2.7 miles of county road 98, 4.18 miles of county road 102 and one mile of county road 100. The agreement states that Ohio Gathering "agrees to the maintenance and repairs of said road and bridges to their pre-pipeline activity condition."
Commission president Chuck Probst credited the work of county engineer Fred Bennett and assistant engineer Mike Wahl for their diligence in watching over the county roads which are being used by the oil and gas companies.
With this final offering for this year, I extend to all a very healthy and prosperous 2013. Happy New Year.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org