BIDWELL — The Gallia Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) recently met at River Valley High School to meet with juniors and seniors in the Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
Students had the opportunity to prepare questions in groups before the meeting, taking advantage to ask community leaders about their work in Gallia County.
“One question that my group came up with is addressing the issue of the power plants possibly leaving Gallia County,” said Sharla Moody, senior. “And if true, how will you address the surplus of unemployed blue collar workers?”
While a tough question, the CIC is dealing with a similar situation currently with the closure of the M&G plant in Apple Grove, many of those workers who live in Gallia County and are now without income and health insurance.
“It’s devastating to all of us. Our bank has mortgages with all those people, Holzer gives healthcare with all those people, it’s a real problem,” said Tom Wiseman, president of Ohio Valley Bank.
“The power plants are the most important aspect in Gallia County as far as our tax base,” said Harold Montgomery, county commissioner. “With the two power plants they comprise about 70 percent of the tax base.”
Montgomery explained that the new schools in the county were purchased through bonds, which still have to be paid by the companies that own the plants even if they close down and move away.
“Back to the unemployment aspect, should we have something to that affect happen, we are a resilient county,” said Montgomery. “We have seen some major closings in our area, including mining jobs in the county. We have maintained in the past and I am confident that our power plants are stable here.”
It was explained by Jude Meyers, superintendent of the county schools that Gavin is very secure, as it provides power all across the east coast including New York City and other places like it. To take that power off the grid would cause major blackouts, according to Meyers.
The issue of small business was also raised by students.
“As business owners in the private industry in Gallia County, how difficult is it to start a small business in this area,” asked Moody.
Several members of the CIC added their opinions to this answer, being small business owners themselves.
“I think that is hard to do that, I was told one time that you have to crawl before you can sprint,” said Josh Bodimer. “Patience, hard work, dedication, and knowing what you want to do. The thing about this county is it’s so embracing and supportive if you allow it to be.”
Bodimer explained that success is a result of long term hard work and persistence in reaching goals.
“I would say that one of your main goals should be to find a mentor, to understand that once you get started you’re going to run into issues you didn’t plan for and someone that’s been there and done that can help you out of that,” said Bob Foster.
Other students addressed issues with infrastructure in Gallia County, asking how the CIC is working to improve those areas.
“How do you plan to bridge the gap between rural and city communities,” asked Hannah Hawks, senior. “I live in a pretty rural area in the (area) near Jackson and Vinton counties and we didn’t get county water until last year, and that has been an ongoing problem for us. We don’t have cell service or anything like that out there.”
“I will say this, I do think there is a disconnect statewide when it comes to even funding in general. We see that with our roads, money is not distributed by mileage, but by population,” said Brett Booth, county engineer. “So a lot of times we are at a disadvantage right out of the gate economically. We are trying to get some of those things adjusted at the state level.”
Booth went on to explain that he is working to find grant money and alternative sources to fund projects that improve the roadways in Gallia County as well as the other infrastructure that needs improved and implemented on the edges of the county.
An example Booth made was the contrast between road mileage and population in Vinton County compared to Gallia. While they have a similar population, they have significantly less mileage leading to more money per mile that they can spend on their roadways.
“Our goal is two-fold with this. One, it is to give the CIC an opportunity to reach out to some of the students here so that our students can be better educated about Gallia County, the challenges that we face, and the plans they are making,” said Aaron Walker, teacher at RVHS. “And two, is to give the CIC an opportunity as they plan for the future to look at the future of Gallia County, in these students.”
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108