OHIO VALLEY — With 2019 fast approaching, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune looks back at 2018 and some of the most impactful events and people to sway Gallia’s history over the course of the year.
Top stories from across 2018 will be published in four separate articles looking across quarters of the year.
Chester Mike Polcyn, commonly known as the Gallipolis City Park Santa, was posthumously awarded the Gallia Chamber of Commerce’s highest honor, the Bud and Donna McGhee Award, during the 81st Gallia Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony, January 25, 2018, after dying the previous Jan. 17. He served more than 40 years as the community’s personal Santa Claus, greeting generations of families in the Santa House in Gallipolis City Park, the Gallipolis Christmas Parade and public functions throughout Gallia.
Polcyn served on the Gallia County Local Schools Board of Education for 11 years and received multiple awards from various educational and youth-centered organizations throughout his life. He received a commendation from the Gallia County Commissioners. He is remembered as a U.S. Air Force veteran, a 4-H adviser and member of Calvary Christian Church. Polcyn worked with AT&T for 30 years, along with Ohio Bell and Ameritech.
Polcyn long credited his wife of 53 years, Karen, for her support in his role as Saint Nicholas.
In February, extreme flooding washed over the tri-county region as Meigs, Gallia and Mason Counties experienced what was reported by some to be the worst flooding in a decade with high levels overflowing the Ohio River.
As reported in Ohio Valley Publishing papers February 23, 2018, “A crest of 50.5 feet at the Racine Lock would be the highest recorded at the Lock since it was put in place in the 1960s. The current record crest at the Racine Lock is 50.23 feet on Sept. 20, 2004…In Point Pleasant, the latest river crest prediction is at 48.5 feet late Monday into Tuesday (Feb. 26-27). The crest was at 46.4 feet earlier this week, prior to the water receding. Flood stage at Point Pleasant is 40 feet. The latest river crest prediction at the R.C. Byrd Locks and Dam is 53.5 feet, late Monday into Tuesday. The crest was just under 51.45 feet earlier this week, prior to the water receding. Flood stage at R.C. Byrd is 50 feet.”
Local authorities surveyed the damage from the flooding, with a total estimate of repair coming in just shy of $4 million dollars throughout Gallia County as reported by Ohio Valley Publishing, March 13, 2018. Across the county there were seven different slips on roadways that required repairs, ranging from as low as $122,000 to as high as $402,000 in damage cost estimates. Repairing road slips comprised the bulk of the bill, although washouts near bridges and embankments added up to nearly a quarter of a million dollars throughout Gallia.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued an emergency proclamation Feb. 24 that ultimately included 20 Ohio counties in southeastern Ohio. A joint preliminary damage assessment, conducted by local, state and federal emergency management officials in mid-March, documented damages to county, village and township roads, bridges and public buildings totaling $44 million. An additional $20 million in damages occurred to state highways. Thanks in part to previous mitigation efforts, an estimated $19.9 million in additional damages were prevented.
Gallia commissioners also made declarations of emergency in order to access funding.
Ohio state government would approach federal government for federal declarations of disasters which were approved in mid-April so that federal disaster assistance was made available to the state of Ohio to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, flooding and landslides from Feb. 14 to Feb. 25, 2018.
Sarah Hawley, Morgan McKinniss and Beth Sergent contributed to this report.