Gallia County: A year in review

Looking back at memorable moments, October - December

Staff Report

The public access area in Gallipolis under construction in November; crowds tour the new Holzer Wellness and Therapy Center during its open house; Gallipolis Police Department salutes the service of their canine companion as a cruiser carrying Virago passes for a final time in December.

The public access area in Gallipolis under construction in November; crowds tour the new Holzer Wellness and Therapy Center during its open house; Gallipolis Police Department salutes the service of their canine companion as a cruiser carrying Virago passes for a final time in December.

GALLIPOLIS — For several days, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune has been looking back over 2016, highlighting memorable moments and stories.

This final review begins with stories that took place October through December this year, as we all prepare for 2017.


Gallia County sheriff’s deputies bid a fond farewell over the radio to K-9 Deputy Argo after the dog passed away after battling kidney issues. Argo would have turned 6 years old in December and served with his partner and handler, Gallia Deputy Jerry Darst.

“It took a while to (get used to each other),” Darst said. “He came from Pine Kennel Grove that Steve Heater (runs). Steve said he was going to be a hard dog (to work with). He was a bit standoffish, but once we got together, he wouldn’t let anyone else fool with him. He was handler sensitive and protective of me. It was like he was attached to my hip.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) visited the Field of Hope campus and toured the community center’s facilities. He also discussed its ongoing mission of assisting those in the region struggling with addiction and domestic issues, and meeting local needs as a food pantry.

According to Field of Hope representative Kevin Dennis, the assembled group toured the entirety of the former North Gallia High School facility and current community center. Portman was able to observe future food pantry facilities as well as a gym receiving upgrades to be turned into a community youth center. Next, the group went to tour the 16-bed women’s recovery house the campus broke ground on earlier in the year. Of those in the home, 14 will be in treatment and the others will serve as community managers and guides.

“It’s got a roof on it now and it’s really shaping up,” said Dennis. “We had five of our folks who found victory in recovery tell their stories.”

The Gallipolis Wastewater Treatment Plant reached operational completion as of early October. Construction workers were putting on the finishing touches to a facility that has the capability of processing around 7.2 million gallons of waster water a day.

According to wastewater plant manager Brian Lane, the plant added a new administration building, converted settling tanks to aeration tanks and added intermediate clarifiers. The facility also received a new final clarifier and converted operations from chlorine disinfectants to ultraviolet light-based disinfectant processes. The ultraviolet further helps water-cleansing practices by breaking down waste on a cellular level and should prove to be safer than some chemical treatments for individuals working on the facility site.

The Gallipolis City Commission budgeted $8.4 million to the project in March 2015 using a variety of low-interest loans and grants received with help from the Ohio Water Development Authority, City Auditor Annette Landers said last year.

October ended with these words: “I need a bunch of apples.” These were spoken by Derek Henry of Gallipolis. Teenagers ask for a lot of things, but apples and a bunch of them? Derek’s mom, Janice Henry, said she was stumped by his request and asked him to explain.

“I want to hand out apples at Mrs. Sickels’ house,” Derek had responded.

Mrs. (Ann) Sickels was one of Derek’s favorite teachers, first at Grace UM Church for Sunday School and then at Washington Elementary. She had fought the fight against cancer and passed away in 2015. Sickels was known for passing out apples at Halloween to trick-or-treaters outside her home on Third Avenue. It was said she did this to try and “teach” healthy eating habits. Janice said at first she was skeptical and told Derek he couldn’t do it out of respect for possibly upsetting Sickels’ family. But, like most teenagers, Derek had thought ahead and had already cleared his idea with Sickels’ daughter.

“I want to carry on the tradition of a sweet lady,” Derek had said in a Facebook message to Sickels’ daughter when asking for permission.

So, last Halloween, Derek went to Richard Brothers Orchard in Jackson (the same place Sickels bought her apples) and picked up 400 of them to pass out to trick-or-treaters. This year, 16-year old Derek once again cleared his mission with Sickels’ daughter, made a visit to Jackson and sat up shop outside his late teacher’s home. This time he gave away 460 apples.


The new Holzer Wellness and Therapy Center hosted its open house in November with area dignitaries and supporters, in order to display the facility’s services to the public, as well as celebrate upon the work involved with getting the center open. The center is located on Second Avenue where the old Johnson grocery market sat at 735 Second Avenue. The land was donated to the Holzer Heritage Foundation by the Eastman family.

Individuals will be able to purchase memberships and have access to a walking and running track, the latest exercise equipment, a sauna, shower and locker areas, vending services and a multipurpose meeting room. The center will also offer healthcare services compromised of physical, speech, massage and occupational therapies as well as providing for health risk assessments and guided fitness plans.

“This is a great day for Holzer and a great day for (southeast Ohio),” said Dr. Michael Canaday, newly named Holzer Health System CEO. “This is a wellness center. That word is very important. It’s not just a fitness center. It’s also a therapy center.”

With the unofficial results of Gallia’s election tallied, the 1 percent additional income tax was put down by Gallipolis residents with 725 no votes against 652 yes votes. The income tax increase was also defeated during the March primary election, 598 to 303.

The Gallipolis public access area on the bank of the Ohio River has seen a variety of changes the last few months, among those a new amphitheatre, bigger parking areas and new boat ramp access improvements.

“The amphitheatre is almost complete,” said Gallipolis City Manager Gene Greene in November. “I’d say 90 percent. The only thing they have left to do on it are add some handrails and a set of steps on each side. Other than that it’s complete.”

Greene said there was just enough money left over in the project to where city officials would like to add a sidewalk from where the public access area ends in front of Grape Street. The sidewalk would end at roughly the distance of Court Street on the public access side of First Avenue.

For Megan Wise, 2016 would go down as an unforgettable year. It all began last November when she was crowned Miss Ohio USA and that amazing year recently ended on the same stage where it all began.

A native of Gallia County, Wise is a graduate of Gallia Academy and the University of Rio Grande. She also teaches at Meigs Elementary School and has family in Mason County, where she also attends church. Her story touches the entire tri-county and anyone who has pursued a dream despite disappointment. By 2015, Wise had previously competed in the Miss Ohio USA competition nine times, starting when she was 18 in the “teen” category and then moving up to the “miss” division where, over the last few years prior to winning, she had been first runner-up and second runner-up multiple times. She was so close so many times, only to come up short. Last year was her final year of eligibility and after a tough second runner-up finish the prior year, she wasn’t sure if she’d attempt one more try but she did and finally took home the big prize last year.

Shortly after her reign ended, Wise spoke with the Tribune.

“I cannot say enough about Gallia County and the support I have received throughout my reign,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have represented such a loving community in Ohio. I am so grateful for each and every person, for their time and energy in supporting me during this process. I thank everyone for the kind messages, the cards of support, the Miss USA watch parties, and all your votes of confidence. I feel like I could move mountains because of the love and support has this community has shown me. I will forever be thankful for this place I call home.”


Also this month, Gallipolis Police Department said goodbye to its first and arguably most beloved canine officer, as the year ended and a new year and chapter began for his handler. Virago was roughly 16-and-a-half years old before taking his last cruiser ride and receiving a salute from fellow officers in front of the Gallipolis Justice Center after passing on. According to current Gallipolis City Commissioner and past Gallipolis Police Chief Roger Brandeberry, Virago was “the best employee” he ever had. Virago was reportedly active for 11 years of service.

Then Gallia County Sheriff-Elect and Gallipolis Police Officer Lt. Matt Champlin served as Virago’s handler and partner. Champlin said he served a year-and-a-half on the road as a patrolman and started with the department in Sept. 1999. Champlin acquired Virago in Feb. 2001, went to training in March of that year and certified Virago as a professional police canine on April 20, 2001. Virago was 11 months old when certified for the first time. Champlin admitted Virago was young and that it is typical to shoot between 13 months and three years of age for a police dog certification, depending upon the dog’s maturity and cognitive abilities. The pair trained with the Newark Division of Police Canine Unit.

Also this month, a Bidwell man was sentenced to an indefinite term of prison for 16 years to life for the shooting of his estranged wife. Charles Miller, 39, would have had an indefinite term of 15 years to life had a firearm not been involved in the crime, according to Gallia Prosecutor Jeff Adkins. Miller ultimately pleaded guilty to the crime of homicide, after a plea arrangement which dropped his previous evasion charge.

According to complaint records, deputies were dispatched late September to the Porter Road area in Gallia County after receiving a report that a man named “Charlie” had a gun and was going to shoot the caller’s friend, “Sarah.” Law enforcement arrived at 971 Porter Road and located the victim, Sarah Miller, 46, dead with a gunshot wound to her head in the residence’s yard.

The Gallipolis Historical Preservation Board met in the Gallipolis Municipal Building with Downtown Revitalization Project representatives, as well as the public, to discuss the possibility of adding a splash pad in Gallipolis City Park. According to minutes of the meeting, more than 30 individuals were present to discuss the possibility of a dog day care and the splash pad.

President of the DRP Jimmy Wiseman spoke for the group looking to place a splash pad, also called spray pools often seen in public parks that shoot water from the ground using nozzles, in Gallipolis City Park. Handouts depicting pictures of the proposed structure were given to board members and those in attendance. The DRP ideally would like the splash pad to be placed near the Court Street area of City Park due to a lack of trees in the area.

Wiseman said the creation of the pad was to draw more families and business to the downtown area and City Park. No slides or extra accessories were planned to go with the pad. The DRP proposed additional colored lights with the pad to add to the aesthetic of the pad’s timed water displays. Plans say the pad would be concrete, roughly three inches thick and 30-feet by 30-feet in its dimensions. To tie into the historical aspects of City Park, DRP members proposed incorporating words and imagery depicting notable members and events of Gallipolis around the pad’s outer edge. Benches would be placed near the pad. Proposed operating hours and times for the pad would been from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the months of June, July and August. The pad would run on a timer with a start button so as to not run too long.

Minutes state Wiseman expressed the DRP wanted the creation of the splash pad to be a positive experience and not a conflict within the community. Concerns were raised in the meeting regarding the infrastructure of aging water lines in town and what that meant in regard to the splash pad.

When asked what the pad would cost, Wiseman reportedly said the structure could cost between $85,000 and $100,000. DRP in previous meetings had said they would fund any construction and maintenance needs with the pad.

Individuals raised concerns with whether the pad would take away patrons from the Gallipolis Municipal Pool and would it need to close should the pad be constructed. It was postulated that 30 workers could potentially lose jobs, if the pool closed.

City Manager Gene Greene reportedly said other organizations had approached the city in the past with desires to place statues, banners and other structures in the park and were turned away. The city currently has an ordinance saying, “There shall be no additional permanent structures placed above ground in the City Park . The term ‘structures’, however, shall not be defined to include any vegetation, waste containers, benches, drinking fountains, sprinkler system or lighting system.”

The splash pad issue has been one of much debate – debate which is likely to extend into 2017.

The public access area in Gallipolis under construction in November; crowds tour the new Holzer Wellness and Therapy Center during its open house; Gallipolis Police Department salutes the service of their canine companion as a cruiser carrying Virago passes for a final time in December. public access area in Gallipolis under construction in November; crowds tour the new Holzer Wellness and Therapy Center during its open house; Gallipolis Police Department salutes the service of their canine companion as a cruiser carrying Virago passes for a final time in December.
Looking back at memorable moments, October – December

Staff Report