Major developments - the kind that bring jobs and more jobs to Belmont County - have come to light involving both private business expansion spawned by the county's rich oil and gas deposits and a new retail center that would be located just across National Road from the Ohio Valley Mall and Ohio Valley Plaza.
One of the big gas companies working the Marcellus and Utica shale has literally struck it rich in Belmont County and reportedly has its eyes on constructing a building or corporate office on National Road at a point almost directly across from Ohio University Eastern.
The site is located just off the road leading from National Road to the Oak View building where the senior services kitchen facilities are currently located and where tons of old records from the county offices are being stored. The proposed structure would be located next to the state operated Oakview Juvenile Residential Center.
Belmont County commissioners got the ball rolling for this project back on March 27 when they approved a quit claim deed authorizing the transfer of approximately six acres of land to the Belmont County Community Improvement Corp.
Although the commission did not disclose the identity of the firm that would be utilizing the land, it was indicated the property was for a business development. Sources later indicated one of the gas companies involved in drilling operations in the county was planning to construct an office building on the site.
There were other reports that came later that the new facility could employ upwards of 50 people and that an official announcement would be coming in the near future. Visits to the site during the past couple of weeks revealed it has been outlined with surveyor markers and on one occasion an employee in a truck from an excavating firm was observed looking over the site.
As for the possible business plaza proposal, the property owner gave a vehement "nothing is definite" regarding information being circulated about possible businesses that may be located in a new retail center on National Road opposite the Whiteside auto agency just east of the St. Clairsville corporate limits.
It is a project that has been years in the making. In March 2012 when the demolition of the former Rax Restaurant building in the Ohio Valley Mall was completed, there came numerous reports about planned development in the mall complex and surrounding area. One of the first things mentioned was that the CVS Pharmacy would be moving out of the mall.
The manager of CVS claimed to have no such information. Mall manager George Diab also claimed no knowledge of such a move. And a contractor reputed to have been engaged to do the work of building a new pharmacy likewise issued a denial.
Now comes word that CVS would be one of several businesses - like a restaurant, service station, hotel, auto parts store, and others - to be located on a 12-acre site situated between National Road and Rehm Road. The location is just east of Kirke's Ice Cream parlor and the Porterfield Drive Thru Farm Supply.
Edna and Ron Kettler are owners of a 5.3- acre site that borders Rehm Road. They are also owners of an additional 32 acres immediately to the east of the smaller acreage. Several years ago the 32-acre site was laid out by a developer as the location for a number of businesses. But that development went down the drain because a direct entrance to the site from Mall Road could not be obtained.
But the development did not die. This proposed new development was moved slightly west of the original location. It would cover the 5-acre site as well as a portion of the 32 acres. "We haven't signed or finalized anything," Edna Kettler emphasized after hearing from a friend about the rumors circulating.
Unfortunately there have been instances when answering an emergency call in a rural setting or anywhere in Belmont County, responders - whether a fire truck, emergency vehicle, ambulance or law enforcement - have encountered difficulty finding or recognizing the house number where the call originated.
The few seconds it takes the first responders to locate the address could develop into a life or death situation, the loss of a home or some other type of disaster.
No one is more aware of something like that happening than the Belmont County Fire & Squad Officers Association and for that reason the organization has undertaken a project that could avert such situations.
"We are selling green address signs," said Jim Delman of the Sunset Heights Volunteer Fire Department and an official in the squad officer's organization. "The signs will help first responders locate your house faster and easier."
The signs come with two sets of white reflective numbers and a green plate to mount them on. Orders for the signs, which cost $20, each are to be made by calling 740 635-0093. Delman noted the association also is holding a ticket sale for a chance to win two Ohio State University 2013 football season tickets. Each fire department in Belmont County has the tickets available. Each ticket has two numbers and the winners will be picked from the Ohio Pick 3 Lottery on Aug. 7.
As most people know the parking situation around the Belmont County Courthouse in St. Clairsville is not a new problem. It's been going on for 40 years or more.
Times have changed. There are more cars now. There are more people now. And one new segment of the population wants to be given ample consideration. They are the increasing number of senior citizens.
A quartet of women who participate in the activities at the Belmont County Senior Center in St. Clairsville joined in an extensive - and sometimes contentious - discussion of the parking problem at the commission meeting last week. Their concern is the seniors do not have access to the new parking lot behind the courthouse and as a result have difficulty finding parking space near the senior center which is located across the street from the parking lot.
"One woman drove around the block six times and couldn't find a parking place. She finally went home," said Judy Briggs, who came with a petition bearing the names of 21 women who drive to the center but do not have access to the parking lot.
Commissioner Matt Coffland was sympathetic but said he feels the courthouse employees deserve a place to park. He said 150 passes have been issued and the lot doesn't have that many parking spots, so some employees also have to search for parking places.
Commission president Ginny Favede favored giving the 21 women parking passes that she had obtained. She also opposed a suggestion to mark off 10 spaces in the lot adjacent to the public defender's office because the elderly would have to walk across a heavily trafficked Newell Avenue.
After the 1975 decision about a parking garage, it was three years later that detailed construction plans for a four-story facility with a link to the courthouse were completed. That's as far as the project got because of the lacking of financing.
Four years ago the commissioners joined with St. Clairsvile city officials to share the cost of another parking garage study. After a year and the expenditure of $10,000, the study set the cost of the garage at over $9 million. And that's as far as that plan got.
There's an old saying that the third time is a charm.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740 695-5233.