Since the first gambling casino opened in Ohio last year, Belmont County has gained a total of $348,894 from the tax levied on revenue the casinos gain after the winners take their share.
Belmont County commissioners are happy to receive the funds but there is apprehension on their part on how long the full amount of the tax will keep rolling in. They are also in agreement that the gambling revenue will not make up for the funding cuts the county has suffered over the years - especially from the continual cutback in the local government funds.
Revenue received from the first year's gambling operations in 2012 produced payments of $61,235.29 on July 31 for the months of April, May and June; and $122,220.71 on Nov. 1 for the months of July, August and September. In January the county received $162,438 for the months of October, November and December.
Those funds were received from three of the four casinos operating in the state in Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus. The gambling casino in Cincinnati opened just last Monday and the tax revenue from there should increase the county's total considerably.
However, commissioners are concerned whether the tax income for the counties will remain about the same as what has been received thus far. Commission President Ginny Favede expressed her doubts, claiming the governor has plans for cutting the funds the counties get from the gambling tax.
"The governor's proposal is reducing the county government's share of the gambling tax payments," Favede charged. She further declared the governor is preparing other changes in the financial status of counties, claiming "It is frightening what the state is trying to do."
She proposed that people locally and in the entire state should complain to their state legislators about how funds to the counties are continually being cut. "He is taking away money from this county," she declared. And she added a bit scornfully, "this is a governor that has a $2 billion rainy day fund."
Favede also noted that the gambling tax payments to the county in the future are likely not to be as large as the original ones because "the casinos are not doing the business they had anticipated."
Commissioner Matt Coffland was critical of the location of the casino in Columbus, claiming it was constructed on the outskirts of Columbus, away from the heavy population and traffic area. "They should have built it downtown Columbus instead of southwest of the city."
For the time being, Favede noted, the gambling funds likely will be used for some county capital improvement projects. It was noted further that the initial tax payment received in July was used to pay off part of the cost of improving the parking lots behind the courthouse.
Work is underway at a half dozen locations in the Ohio Valley Mall for the methodical relocation of several businesses over the next few weeks to completely clear the space for the eventual arrival of Boscov's - the billion-dollar plus department store.
All of the businesses affected by the move are being relocated within the main mall except for one. The Raven Rock Workwear store is moving into the building on the Ring Road next door to the h.h.gregg store. When the Gregg store moved into the building that had been occupied for many years by TJMaxx, it took the entire space with the exception of space next to the CVS Pharmacy. Raven Rock will be situated between the two stores.
The move will double the Raven Rock space. "Over there we're going to have 8,200 square feet of space," commented Lee Ledford, who has been manager of the store since it came to the mall almost three years ago.
The larger sales floor will permit an expansion of the firm's merchandise. "We'll add a line of medical clothing," Ledford noted. At present the store offers rugged boots and clothing for indoor and outdoor work activity for both men and women.
Besides managing the mall shop, Ledford has been spending many hours doing the remodeling work in the new location. "I'm hoping to have the place ready by the 28th but probably more likely it'll be on April 1," said Ledford, who travels all the way from New Philadelphia to manage the store. That's 45 miles one-way. Although he thought about moving down to this area to save on the lengthy drive, the plans didn't work out with his wife and three children.
At the present time Ledford has three other employees but with the larger store may have to seek another worker.
Victoria's Secret will be moving twice before it is back into a permanent spot. Eventually the store will be situated directly across the hall from its present location. But before that happens, Victoria's Secret will be moved into the store space that was vacated just 10 days ago by the Velocity sporting goods store. "They'll be at that temporary location for about seven months until their new store is remodeled,' mall manager George Diab pointed out.
Following on the heels of Belmont County's first very successful Ohio Valley Regional Oil & Gas Expo in 2012, this year's venture is expected to be just as successful with the number of exhibitors already signed up to participate in next month's event exceeding the available space in the Carnes Center. And the Expo is more than a month away. It is set for Wednesday, April 24.
By the middle of last week the number of exhibitors already signed up - 84 - was more than the Carnes Center can hold. Based on the layout from last year, the Carnes Center can hold about 82 exhibits. Last year there were business displays outside the center and a large tent was secured to house additional exhibits. Space outdoors can accommodate about 64 exhibits and the tent can hold about 42.
Larry Merry, director of the Belmont County Port Authority, said Assayo Creative Inc. of Morgantown has been retained again this year to sign up the participants for the Expo, which last year drew about 180 exhibitors. Conference sessions and a vendors reception for the event are still in the planning stage.
Members of the Belmont County Tourism Council will have the tedious task of sifting through 155 pages of information submitted by the 55 organizations in the county that have filed for financial grants under the council's Grant Assistance Program (GAP).
Although the GAP applications consist of one or two pages, the organizations also submitted volumes of information explaining why they need the funds, how their organization operates and other data they felt would help convince the board to award them the funds they seek. The applications counted 76 pages and the added information 79 pages.
The council meets next week to review and decide the legitimacy of the requests and determine the amount of the individual grants that range from $500 to $3,000.
Daylight Savings Time arrived today and so did weather conditions that may have a lot of people feeling that spring has arrived. It's supposed to be unseasonably warm today but have no doubts - a lot of winter weather is still ahead. I can't remember the exact year but I do recall about 30 years ago in mid-April there was a four-inch snowfall in this area and as much as eight inches in some places. So be prepared. I'd be happy if spring did arrive to stay today.
Don't forget to turn your clocks forward one hour.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: email@example.com or by phone at (740) 695-5233.