Tips From Monroe County EMA on Staying Safe in Cold Temps

With ongoing cold temperatures this winter, Monroe County residents are urged to be prepared and check on neighbors during cold spells. Residents should get in touch with friends, family and loved ones, and help spread the word about how to stay safe in the extreme cold.

The Monroe County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) urges residents to practice safety and precaution if using alternative heat sources such as electric space heaters, fireplaces, kerosene heaters or back-up generators. Their use increases the chance of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Monroe County EMA Director Phillip Keevert recommends the following steps to protect yourself, your family and your neighbors:

• Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.

• Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors—the fumes are deadly.


Notification of Tax Programs


The Ohio Department of Taxation has ordered Monroe County Auditor Pandora Neuhart to implement a new CAUV soil schedule in Monroe County, which will cause taxable values for land enrolled in CAUV to increase. CAUV is a State program where the land owner receives a partial reduction in land value for using their land for agricultural purpose.

Also, the Department of Taxation has changed how one qualifies for the Homestead Act, is a reduction in taxable value for the home owner. If you have not signed up for the Homestead Act, and were 65 years old in 2013 or totally disabled by January 1, 2013, you do not have to meet eligibility requirements. If you became totally disabled after January 1, 2013 or turn 65 in 2014, you will need to meet the new income requirements. The Auditor’s office will need your Adjusted Gross income from your 2014 Ohio Income Tax return.



Davis to Act as 2014 Board of Commissioners President; ODOT Gives Statistics on Snow and Ice Removal

The Monroe County Commissioners held their 2014 re-organizational meeting during their regular session meeting on Jan. 13. After a vote was taken, Carl Davis will act as board president in 2014, taking the place of 2013 president John Pyles. Tim Price will retain his position as vice president of the board.

Several other motions passed for the reorganization as well. Sheila Turner was re-appointed as clerk of the board. The meeting date was also set to continue in 2014 in its normal time slot of 9 a.m. on Mondays. Commissioners appointed members to several area boards as part of the proceedings.

Darrin Hendershot and Jim Wells of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) met with commissioners to get their feedback on road care. Commissioners stated they knew how difficult ODOT’s job was and they commended ODOT on their care of the roads.

During the appointment, Hendershot and Wells gave some statistics of snow and ice removal. As of Jan. 9, Hendershot reported that Monroe County had seen 13 “snow events.” ODOT treated the roads of Monroe County with 3,325.2 tons of salt during that time period totaling a cost of $188,405.83. They also used 34,245 gallons of brine at the cost of $2,068.53 and 518 tons of sand at the cost of $4,332. Hendershot also reported that ODOT trucks had traveled a total of 28,924 miles to treat Monroe County roads.

Commissioners also met with Taylor Abbott to discuss the refinishing of the exterior courthouse doors. Abbott said he had examined the doors and noticed they needed work done before too long. He proposed that he could re-finish the doors for the price of $2,100. Commissioners passed a motion to accept the proposal. 


Alleged Victim in Rape Case Only Six Months Old

It was reported in last week’s Beacon that Joshua M. Gornick of Beallsville had been arrested on several charges, including rape, gross sexual imposition, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and sexual battery. However, Gornick’s arraignment last week saw him face only one charge formally: one count of rape, a felony of the first degree.

Court filings revealed that the alleged rape took place with an infant, born on July 2, 2013. That would place the alleged victim at the age of six months old. 


Commissioners Pass Resolution to Create Port Authority

The Monroe County commissioners passed a motion during their Dec. 27 regular session meeting to establish a port authority in Monroe County. A port authority is an economic development body designed with the purpose of attracting companies and new business. Although the resolution was passed, the commissioners did not populate the board or fund the port authority. However, the resolution does initiate a plan to focus more efforts on economic development in the county.

Plans to develop a port authority shows further willingness of local government officials to be proactive in attracting companies to the county. After years of going without an economic developer, commissioners signed a contract with Jason Hamman and his firm The Hamman Consulting Group in October of 2012 to fill the role. Hamman was one of the catalysts in creating the port authority.

Hamman said of the move by commissioners, “The message we want to send is we have a new year starting, and we’re not going to sit back and wait for Ormet to reopen. We are going to use new tools and be more aggressive in creating jobs.” He added, “It’s another arrow in our quiver.”

The primary purpose of a port authority is to offer funding to new projects and facilities. A port authority issues bonds to companies and sells them on the open market as investments. The program is just like a loan program, however, the company gets funding from the port authority instead of a bank. 


Neil Ritchie Resigns as WES Principal

After weeks of paid leave during which the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District (SOLSD) investigated complaints against Woodsfield Elementary principal Neil Ritchie, the situation has finally been resolved. The school board voted nearly unanimously (board member Dave Matz abstained from the vote) during their regular session meeting at Swiss Hills Career Center on Dec. 19 to accept the resignation of Ritchie as Woodsfield principal.

No details of Ritchie’s alleged indiscretions have been revealed by the school district due to legal reasons. When Ritchie was placed on administrative leave in October of this year, SOLSD superintendent John Hall simply called it “a personnel matter.”

However, according to other media sources and some concerned parents, the personnel matter revolved around alleged sexual harassment of teaching staff. To this point, the investigation has been handled only internally as a personnel matter.

Ritchie’s resignation from the principal’s position was communicated through a “Transition Agreement” drafted by his attorney. There are two primary conditions of the agreement.

1. It is an official resignation of his administrative position by Neil Ritchie. The agreement states, “Mr. Ritchie hereby resigns from his administrator’s contract effective at the close of business on June 30, 2014.” 

Estimated Costs of Ohio & Lee Water and Sewer Project Revealed

The monthly board meeting for the Ohio & Lee Water and Sewer District was held on Dec. 9.  The board continued discussing the Hannibal sewer project.  As discussed previously the growing pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has forced Ohio & Lee to consider options for putting in a sewage system.

Bill Brake, an engineer from Swiss Valley Associates, was at the meeting along with Nathan Davis from the Ohio Rural Communities Assistance Program (RCAP).

Brake began the meeting by showing the Board aerial photography and mapping.  The maps were broken into 68 separate pieces.

Brake started by talking about the possibility of using Ormet’s sewage treatment plant for Hannibal’s sewage situation. This option would involve connecting Hannibal’s sewage to Ormet’s treatment plant. Brake said he had talked to Scott Foster, an environmental specialist for the EPA about the plant. Brake also spoke with Darrell Pytlik, an engineer who is still at the Ormet facility. Pytlik, said that he saw no problem with the idea but said that at this point no one could give an answer.

Brake suggested that if the Board wanted to pursue looking into using the Ormet sewage treatment plant for Hannibal, then the board should send a letter to Pytlik asking for permission to look into Ormet’s treatment plant.

Brake said that if Ormet is interested in Ohio & Lee proceeding with the project,  Ormet will allow Brake to go look at the plant and get measurements. These measurements would allow Brake to put together an estimate needed for costs and supplies. The Board was concerned with getting a written commitment from Ormet for loan purposes. Brake suggested starting by sending the letter of inquiry to Pytlik. Without permission from Pytlik allowing Brake to look at Ormet’s treatment plant, Brake cannot figure costs, saying, “Until we do that I cannot say that the idea is a viable solution financially or not.”

Board members and Brake did discuss the capacity that the Ormet treatment plant could handle. Bob Fuchs, former employee of Ormet and secretary on the Board said that the plant was originally built to handle 4,000 people.


Murray Energy Corp. Completes Purchase of Consolidation Coal Co. From CONSOL

Murray Energy Corporation (“Murray Energy”) has announced that it has finalized the acquisition of Consolidation Coal Company (“Consolidation Coal”) from CONSOL Energy, Inc. (“CONSOL”). This includes the mining complexes in West Virginia formerly known as the McElroy, Shoemaker, Blacksville, Loveridge, and Robinson Run Mines, additional coal reserves, related river transportation and dock facilities, and other assets.

The Consolidation Coal name has been changed to Murray American Energy, Inc. (“Murray American”). The river transportation operations will be conducted by Murray American Transportation, Inc. The coal mines are now organized under the following companies and mine names: The Ohio County Coal Company’s Ohio County County Mine (formerly Shoemaker Mine); The Marshall County Coal Company’s Marshall County Mine (formerly McElroy Mine); The Marion County Coal Company’s Marion County Mine (formerly Loveridge Mine); The Harrison County Coal Company’s Harrison County Mine (formerly Robinson Run Mine); and The Monongalia County Coal Company’s Monongalia County Mine (formerly Blacksville Mine).


Pending Recount, Jackie Hupp is New School Board Member

The official count for the school issues and races tied to the Nov. 5 general election was announced on Nov. 26. The official results for the race for Switzerland of Ohio Local School District (SOLSD) Board of Education member and for the levy issue have been tabulated.

The official count, adding Noble and Belmont County results to Monroe County results, saw Jackie Hupp jump ahead of Molly Davis for the final position on the SOLSD Board of Education. Hupp received 1,788 votes compared to 1,786 votes for Molly Davis. Incumbent Janelle Comstock came in last, receiving 1,745 votes while the other incumbent, Edward Carleton, had already secured his seat with 1,922 votes.

Due to the close nature of the race, there will be an automatic recount before Hupp is officially given the seat. The Monroe County Board of Elections will meet at 9 a.m. on Dec. 6 to hold the recount. At the end of the day, the Board of Education race and three township trustee races should finally be resolved. 


Murder Investigation in Death of Powhatan Man

A man was found dead on his property on Powhatan Hill Rd. on the evening of Monday, Nov. 18. After initial investigation, the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department is considering the death a homicide.

The victim is Marvin Brown, age 73. Brown was a former mayor of Powhatan Point and a local business owner. Detective Allar of the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Brown had been shot.

The death is currently under investigation. The Belmont County Sheriff’s Department is looking for anyone who has any information surrounding the circumstances of Brown’s death. 



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