Plagued by cuts in local government funds by the state and failure of residents to approve a tax levy, the Pease Township trustees claim they do not have the funds to keep the street lights in the township lighted.
At their meeting on Wednesday, the trustees voted "to shut off all 179 lights located in Pease Township effective March 1. This action is being taken due to the reduction of local government funds through the state and the failure this past November of a proposed levy that would have replaced the loss of those funds."
The trustees said the levy had been anticipated to generate the revenue needed to sustain the cost of the lights. "The levy was critical due to the loss of revenue." Without the additional money the levy would have produced, the trustees say they cannot maintain the cost of keeping the street lights on.
"Gov. Kasich and the Republican administration cut our local government funds - the funds that the majority of small government entities relied on heavily to continue daily operations. That is the reason villages, libraries, park districts and townships are now experiencing these problems," the trustees said in a statement issued following their meeting.
No other sources of revenue can be used to finance the lights. "Road and bridge funds, per the Ohio Revised Code, can't be utilized to maintain street lights. Only the general fund can pay for lights; the general fund which is already burdened by mandates," the trustees' statement continued.
The mandates, they pointed out, include contributions of $7,500 to the Belmont County Board of Elections and $15,000 to the Belmont County Health Department. Both come from the township's general fund. All 16 townships in the county are saddled with those mandates.
"While our local government funds have been cut," the trustees maintained, "Gov. Kasich's rainy day fund has increased from approximately 25 cents to almost $2 billion. The rainy day fund continues to grow on the back of our local entities. Pease Township alone has sustained over $23,000 in cuts in local government funds in the last three years. We are just one small entity - consider how many millions of dollars have been taken away from local government entities to sustain the governor's rainy day fund."
Those affected by the discontinuance of light service who may want to maintain a street light at their own expense are advised to contact American Electric Power at 1-800-672-2231.
"The board of trustees recognizes the hardship to the residents that will result from shutting off the lights," the trustees noted, "but has no other course of action at this time. However, the board is contemplating possibly putting the 1 mill levy on the ballot in the future." A 1-mill levy for the lights was voted down in November. Anyone with questions concerning the trustees' action is to contact Michael Bianconi at 740-635-3072.
Bianconi , president of the trustees board, noted Pease Township is not alone in this critical financial situation. He cited the fact that cash-strapped Mingo Junction is contemplating shutting off street lights. He also noted that Bellaire has approved shutting off traffic lights to save money.
Ever since the official announcement that Boscov's department store would be moving into the Ohio Valley Mall before the arrival of the Christmas shopping season, there has been a lot of talk about the size of the store, since it will be taking over occupancy of five store locations - four currently operating and one vacant space.
Boscov's, the largest family-owned department store in the United States, will occupy a total of 180,000 square feet of space. That would be almost like having the Wal-Mart store from the Ohio Valley Plaza inside the mall - but not quite.
By comparison, the Wal-Mart store has just a little over 200,000 square feet of space, according to Manager Dean Holtsclaw. And Holtsclaw says Boscov's is a fine addition to the mall complex and predicted a bright future for the store.
Work has already been started in one vacant space to relocate one of the four operating businesses that must be moved to accommodate Boscov's. The site is being prepared for Kitchen Collection, which will be moving further south in the Sears corridor. The store's final day in its present location is March 12.
Besides Kitchen Collection, the stores that will be relocated elsewhere in the mall to make way for Boscov's are Books-A-Million, Victoria's Secret, and Raven Rock Workwear.
Work also has been started by Boscov's to convert the former two-story anchor location that had been occupied by JCPenney and later Levin Furniture into their needs. The furniture store did not use the second floor. The conversion work is expected to take about eight months.
Meanwhile, another change will take place in the mall this week, but it is not connected to the Boscov's project. The Velocity sporting goods store has had a closing sale going on for a couple of weeks. Its final day of operation is Tuesday.
A campaign spearheaded by Bellaire attorney Dan Frizzi to protect and preserve the high-level railroad viaduct that cuts through the downtown area of Bellaire en route to crossing the Ohio River into West Virginia is getting widespread support throughout Belmont County and beyond.
Following the formation of the Great Stone Viaduct Historical Education Society, Inc. more than a year ago, Frizzi has been carrying the message of the organization's efforts to educate the public of the historical significance of the huge structure that was constructed during the 1868-71 period. He has been seeking endorsement of the Society's goals through a resolution being presented to governmental units and civic organizations in the county for their approval.
The Belmont County Tourism Council last week gave its unanimous endorsement to the efforts and goals of the society "to secure, protect and preserve the abandoned portions of the Great Stone Viaduct and to encourage all interested parties to cooperate in such efforts."
A portion of the viaduct, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and carries an Ohio Historic Marker, is still in use by the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway. But the western portion is not in use and has fallen into disrepair, "detracting from its beauty as an architectural masterpiece of engineering and stone masonry." The society's goal is to acquire that portion and upgrade it "for the education and enjoyment of future generations."
The tourism council fully endorsed the society's effort by approving the resolution. Two weeks earlier the Belmont County commissioners offered their full support of the society's efforts.
Although last-minute exhibitors are still being accepted, the St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce's 22nd annual Home and Business Expo is set to kick off with a Business After Hours event on Thursday that will give chamber members and their guests a sneak preview of the displays set up for the show on Friday and Saturday.
Being held for the first time as part of the Expo, the BAH will be held from 6-9 p.m. at the Carnes Center on Roscoe Road, three miles west of St. Clairsville, The Expo itself will open on Friday from 3-8 p.m. and on Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.
What is on the minds of many weather observers is how the month of March will make its debut on Friday. Will it be like a lamb or a lion?
The old adage claims that if it comes in like a lion - that is with nasty weather conditions - it will go out like a lamb or with pleasant weather. Over the past couple of weeks I've heard more people complain about the windy, cold weather. More than just a few times I've heard the comment, "I'm sick of winter." And that's exactly how I feel, too.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740 695-5233.