Commissioners Vote to Partially Fund Barn Project

The Monroe County Commissioners met with members of the Monroe County Fair Livestock Sale Committee during their regular session meeting on April 7 and passed a motion to give money to the group’s barn project. Representing the committee were Dave Matz, Maurice Ritchie and Kara Dixon.

Matz started by saying, “It’s not a myth; we’re building a new barn.” The new barn referred to by Matz is a Beef Barn to be placed where the current Open Class Barn is located. The total cost of the project is estimated at $250,000. According to Matz, the group has already raised $85,000.

Reasoning given for building the new barn is to create a healthier environment for calves. The new barn is an open air design and will allow for much more ventilation than the Show Barn. The new barn is also designed to alleviate space issues in the Show Barn and allow for improvements there.

After commissioners discussed the barn project later in the meeting, Commissioner Pyles made a motion to give the Monroe County Livestock Sale Committee $25,000 towards its new barn building project. Pyles said, the funding is given “in hopes that other oil and gas entities in the county will see this as a good gesture for the county and will match it to help the kids accomplish what they want.” Pyles also said the project is a good Capital Improvement for the fair ground. Pyles and Commissioner Tim Price voted “yes” on the motion while Commissioner Carl Davis abstained due to his involvement with the sale committee.

In another discussion about fairground structures, commissioners met with John Ackerman of the Monroe County Fair Board to discuss the grand stand. Ackerman told commissioners the decision was made to tear the old structure down and build a new one. [Editor’s note: See the front page article for more details.]

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SHCC Teacher Under Investigation, Placed on Leave

A Swiss Hills Career Center teacher was recently placed on administrative leave after an investigation into undisclosed possible criminal activity was initiated by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Superintendent John Hall said he could not comment on personnel issues due to legal reasons but said of the teacher, “She is not in the school building at this time.”

Monroe County Sheriff Charles Black Jr. said when asked about the investigation, “It is too premature to make any statement on any events in that investigation.”  The teacher has not been charged with any crimes.

Two Monroe County Youth Injured in March 24 Crash On Way to School

A 16-year-old Hannibal girl was life-flighted after a dangerous crash that took place as she drove to school around 8:30 a.m. on Mon., March 24. Also injured in the crash was her nine-year-old sister, who was a passenger in the vehicle.

The two were travelling eastbound on Bares Run Rd. (CR 22) near Hannibal in a 2003 Ford F-150 when the truck ran over a rough section of road. The back end of the truck reportedly skidded to the edge of the road causing the vehicle to strike a tree. The force of impact spun the vehicle into another tree which then sent the truck over a 60-foot embankment.

As a result of the crash, the 16-year-old driver was pinned in the vehicle by the door frame and steering wheel. Fortunately, the nine-year-old was able to climb out the vehicle’s window and run for help.

As emergency personnel began to arrive, they worked on freeing the girl from the truck. Trooper Mark Visvary of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who was first at the scene of the accident, said, “It took quite some time to get her free.” According to Trooper Visvary, the girl was responsive and talking throughout the hour it took her to be freed. 

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Local Candidates Certified For May 6 Primary Election

The 2014 primary election will be held on May 6. Included on the ballot will be votes on three positions in the county along with an issue for residents of the Village of Woodsfield.

Even with the three positions open, no candidates will be opposed in the primary election. Following are candidates that have filed and are certified for the May 6 primary:

• For Judge of the Monroe County Probate and Juvenile Division: Democratic Ticket - James W. Peters. Republican Ticket - Clifford N. Sickler.

• For Monroe County Commissioner: Democratic Ticket - John V. Pyles. Republican Ticket - Mitchell Schumacher.

• For Monroe County Auditor: Democratic Ticket - Pandora Neuhart.

Withdrawing from the election before certification was Patti Haralson who would have been a competitor to John V. Pyles on the Democratic Ticket for commissioner.

The lone issue on the primary ballot will be an Additional Tax Income levy proposed by the Village of Woodsfield. The village is proposing a 0.5% raise in income tax rates from 1.0% to 1.5%. 

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Sheriff's Department Purchases Two Dogs For K-9 Division

When K-9 Deputy Kaiser died last November, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department was left with a hole in its force. Sheriff Charles Black met with commissioners during their March 10 regular session meeting to discuss how that hole can be filled.
Sheriff Black said the department is currently in the process of purchasing two K-9 units. One dog has already been purchased and is in training. Another is on its way from Frankfurt, Germany. Sheriff Black said the first dog was paid for out of the Furtherance Of Justice (FOJ)  fund while the second dog will be paid for through the equipment fund.
Sheriff Black also said his department will soon be seeking donations to build back up the fund for the K-9 division. With the two new additions, the department will have a total of three K-9 officers, one for each shift.
Also discussed was the purchasing of a new trailer for the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Black said he had found a trailer that is larger than the department’s current trailer and has more shelving inside. The trailer will cost $8,000 and will be used for seizures and to transport equipment to crime scenes.

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Auditor Neuhart Expresses Concerns Over Care Center

 

Monroe County Auditor Pandora Neuhart spoke to the Monroe County Commissioners during their regular session meeting on March 3 about concerns she has about the Monroe County Care Center and Brandy Woods Assisted Living (MCCC). Neuhart was primarily concerned over recent loans given to MCCC from the county.

Over the past few months, the commissioners have loaned a total of $350,000 to MCCC to cover operating expenses and debt. The most recent contribution to this total came in February in the amount of $200,000. Neuhart asked if there was any guarantee that the money would be paid back. Commissioners told her there is never a guarantee but MCCC is starting a payment plan soon.

Commissioner Carl Davis said of the situation, “I don’t like it. I’m with you. But, what else are you going to do?” Commissioners John Pyles added about helping MCCC get through some financially rough times, “If they shut the doors and we lost all the residents and all the jobs, the county would still owe $1.8 million [in bond payments].”

Neuhart questioned if there was wasteful spending at the facility and asked how MCCC would pay back the county when it is paying out $17,000 to $20,000 a month in administrative costs to Progressive Healthcare to manage the facility. Commissioners asserted that a management firm is needed and that much of the financial difficulty came because of a lack of oversight during the two to three year period between Share’s management of the facility and Progressive’s management of the facility. During that time period the facility had an administrator but no management company.

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SR 7 To have Temporary Lane Closures Due to Pothole Problems, Re-Paving Starting This Spring

This year’s harsh winter coupled with increased heavy truck traffic has put more stress on southeastern Ohio roadways this year, especially on State Route 7 in Monroe County. Several motorists have complained about the horrible condition of the roadway and the potholes that have formed.

Due to the condition of the roadway, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has made a decision to temporarily close lanes. A press release from ODOT said, “To reduce further pavement stress and enhance safety for motorists traveling State Route 7 in Monroe County, both the northbound and southbound driving lane of the four lane section near Duffy will be closed until this spring. The passing lanes will remain open.”

The closure began the morning of Monday, February 24th and is set to continue until the section is paved this construction season. Due to the pavement conditions of the road, ODOT District 10 will be investing more than $10 million on paving SR 7 in Monroe and Washington counties.

“We have received feedback regarding the condition of State Route 7 and we want to inform the residents of Monroe County that we are aware of the situation and will begin major paving this year,” said District 10 Deputy Director T. Steve Williams.

Nearly 13 miles of SR 7 will be paved in Monroe County, beginning from Duffy to Clarington. In Washington County nearly 15 miles will be paved. In addition, more pavement projects are planned for 2015.

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Seven Spellers Qualify For Regional Spelling Bee, McElwein Finishes First

Eight of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District’s brightest students will represent the district in the regional spelling bee coming in March in Marietta. Pictured are this year’s qualifiers and the alternate. Front row, from left to right, are: Cheyenne Wilson, Alissa Striker, Breanna Tonkery, Kaitlyn Dotterer. Second row, from left to right, are: Peyton Hall, Breanna McElwain, Alexis Lallathin, Madison Huck.The Switzerland of Ohio Local School District held the District Spelling Bee on Thursday, Feb. 6. After several difficult words were spelled and the dust cleared, Breanna McElwein of Powhatan Elementary was crowned the District Spelling Bee champ.  Bringing home second place was Madison Huck, and brining home third place was Alexis Lallathin. Both are students at Skyvue Elementary.

All five of the district’s elementary schools were represented by participants. Those participants had earned the right to compete at the district level after strong performances in their individual school bees.

The top seven students, plus one alternate, from the District Spelling Bee will go on to compete in March at the Regional Spelling Bee in Marietta. Beyond the top three competitors, the following spellers earned a regional berth: Cheyenne Wilson, Alissa Striker and Breanna Tonkery (all of Woodsfield Elementary), and Peyton Hall of River Elementary. Kaitlyn Dotterer of River Elementary will be the alternates. 

Woodsfield Village Seeks Income Tax Increase

Woodsfield Village announced on Feb. 4 via a press release that it will seek a municipal income tax rate increase in the May 6, 2014 primary election. A motion passed by council during the Feb. 3 meeting gave authorization for the village to seek the increase. If passed, the increase would be one-half of once percent, increasing the municipal income tax rate from 1% to 1.5%.

Village Solicitor William Frank Jr. stated in a press release submitted on behalf of the council, “Since 1974, the municipal income tax rate for the Village of Woodsfield has been unchanged at one percent. Almost every single expense that is paid using those tax revenues has increased, many of them quite dramatically, in those same nearly 40 years.”

The release also cited the services offered by Woodsfield Village. It read, “The Woodsfield Council is proud of the quality of standards of service and care that have become part of the quality of life in the Village of Woodsfield. A partial list of those services include law enforcement, street maintenance, snow event management, and the reliable, cost-efficient provision and maintenance of municipal utility services.”

In comparison to the proposed 1.5% income tax rate, the following information was gleaned from a quick survey of area villages and cities: Caldwell; Bridgeport; Sistersville, WV; and New Martinsville, WV all operate with no income tax. Martins Ferry, Powhatan Point and St. Clairsville each operate on a 0.75% income tax. Barnesville and Bellaire are both in line with the current Woodsfield rate of 1%, although Bellaire has attempted multiple times to increase their rate to 1.5% as well. 

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Commissioners Testify in Front of Ways and Means Committee

Monroe County commissioners Carl Davis, Tim Price and John Pyles all made the trip to Columbus on Jan. 27 to discuss the proposed oil and gas severance tax currently being considered by the state of Ohio. The commissioners represented Monroe County as counties affected by the shale drilling boom were invited to testify before the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee.

The discussion comes as House Bill 375 is considered which would apply a severance tax on oil and gas taken from under the surface of Ohio. Although other issues with the drilling process are addressed within the bill, the primary focus has been Governor John Kasich’s plan to use the revenue garnered by the severance tax to apply an income tax cut for all Ohioans.

Currently being debated is how much of the tax revenue will go back to the counties where most of the drilling is taking place. Board of Commission President Carl Davis spoke on behalf of Monroe County taking the position that the county should receive a good portion of the proposed tax revenue. 

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