GALLIA COUNTY — With 2019 here, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune looks back at the last half of 2018 and some of the most impactful events and people to sway the area’s history over the course of the year.
In late July, members of the Community Improvement Corporation of Gallia County met in Washington DC to discuss hopes for placing a smart corridor through Gallia and paving the rest of its gravel county roads. Gallia Engineer Brett Boothe first approached the Gallia Commissioners in mid-July and then Gallipolis City Commissioners about a pair of federal grant applications totaling around $50 million in awarded money to bring to Gallia’s economy. He, Gallia Assistant Engineer Beth Lozier, Community Improvement Corporation of Gallia County President Josh Bodimer and CIC member Tammi Brabham visited with Ohio’s sixth District Congressman Bill Johnson, US Senator Sherrod Brown’s staff, US Senator Rob Portman and senior officials with the US Department of Transportation to share the importance of the projects to Appalachia and the southeastern Ohio region. While not approved in 2018, supporters say they will continue to pursue the project into 2019 with new grant applications.
While aiming to pave over 100 miles of gravel and dirt county roads is certainly one of Boothe’s main goals as Gallia County Engineer, the creation of a potential smart corridor in Gallia County could place it in a position to serve as a leader in testing smart driving technology in Appalachia.
Ohio Valley Bank held its groundbreaking ceremony August 6 for “OVB on the Square,” the local bank’s project to rehabilitate its old building at the corner of State Street and Second Avenue in Gallipolis.
According to OVB Vice-President of Communications Bryna Butler, the bank first organized on September 24, 1872 in a second floor room on Second Avenue. The bank quickly outgrew the room and set out to build a new building. It was then the tallest building in Gallia County. In 1896, the building opened at the corner of Second Avenue and State Street. In 1961, the bank sold the location and it traded hands a number of times before falling into disrepair. The bank was then able to “save” the old location in 2015. Adjacent properties were acquired in recent years as well. The overall renovation and construction anticipated to take place on an empty lot next to the bank location as well as adjacent buildings and the old Ohio Valley Bank location itself is estimated to cost around $5 million.
Previous information released by OVB said it hoped to create a rooftop community patio and community room with the project.
Visitors to the Mothman Festival in September and fans alike were able to snag themselves a photo with the Fallout gaming franchise’s Vault Boy and trade news with representatives from internationally-recognized Bethesda Game Studios. The next title in the video game franchise Fallout, dubbed Fallout 76, is set in a post-apocalyptic West Virginia and the Mothman legend is making appearances in the game. The game released Nov. 14. Fallout is a game series which has garnered world fame after its first inception in 1997. Area newspapers published sightings of the legendary Mothman in Cheshire and the Point Pleasant area in the 1960s. The legend has often been connected with the Silver Bridge Collapse of December 1967.
In early October, the Ariel Opera House hosted WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour’s Michael Johnathon along with conductor Tim Berens as the performing arts centre served as a venue for the world premiere of Songs of Rural America.
“(Songs of Rural America) roots the audience with the elements of the classical world and turns symphony stages literally into a front porch,” said Johnathon in fall. “Songs of Rural America was developed to bring these two worlds together…We’re going to travel from the Civil War to Buddy Holly…Musically, it is a celebration of America’s front porch. The reason that it’s important is because, right now, we are so divided and people are so socially angry that we’ve forgotten as a culture the idea of neighbors and family and slowing things down. The world is exploding at cyber speed all the time. Sometimes taking that deep breath and realizing that real life is family and music and friends, it’s much calmer than it seems to be right now.”
The performance was filmed to be broadcast nationwide for public television.
Visitors from near and far gathered mid-October to watch the annual Rockets over Rio fireworks display after a day wandering Rio Grande and the Bob Evans Farm Festival. The 2018 show was reportedly the display’s largest, numbering around $13,000 in donations given for the event. The show’s largest fireworks shell, measured at 16 inches, was launched during the finale. Event organizers say it is potentially one of the largest launched in Gallia’s history.
In late October, Gallia County Economic Development learned that, after working with JobsOhio for several months, they succeeded in getting SiteOhio authentication for a part of the Dan Evans Industrial Park in Gallia County.
“The Phase II site within the Dan Evans Industrial Park has seen a clear increase in project submissions and outside interest as it has progressed through the SiteOhio authentication program,” said Melissa Clark, director of Gallia County Economic Development.
The program, offered by JobsOhio, guarantees industrial sites are ready for immediate development, creating what supporters call a win-win situation for companies and communities. Companies get access to sites that minimize risk, reduce costs and increase speed to market. Communities gain construction-ready sites that are more appealing to potential buyers and may help attract jobs to their region.
Gallipolis City Commissioners met Nov. 6 and discussed the possibility of sending letters to residents and organizations in the Spring Valley area to gauge interest in being annexed into Gallipolis limits. Much of what is informally called Spring Valley by area residents is recognized as the shopping plazas, businesses, organizations and homes along Jackson Pike and its connecting streets. What commissioners may look to annex is still being discussed, however, it would focus in areas with municipal water service. Commissioners in the past have lamented budget woes with concerns for criminal justice funding. Those who live within Gallipolis limits, commissioners said, can benefit from power and gas aggregation rates due to agreements Gallipolis has with utility companies. Residents also reportedly benefit from reduced rates for trash collection.
Residents living or working in the city would be subject to its ordinances, codes and one-percent income tax.
“The way it is right now,” said Gallipolis City Commissioner Beau Sang in November,”the money we do receive from residents in the area that we’re looking at has to stay in the (water) enterprises. If we do this, money can go to the general fund to give us more flexibility to do things that those people use every day, like roads and the infrastructure of the city. It can help make things better for everybody. The common misconception I think that people will see is that we’re going after their money. We’ve done numbers that will accompany the letter that we’ll send out that will help explain it. What they’ll find is in some cases, some people will actually keep more money in their pockets, but it’s all based on individual circumstances.”
Gallia County Commissioners are in discussions with the Gallia Sheriff’s Office and seeking solutions on how to combat rising corrections costs and one of the solutions being considered is potentially raising the county sales tax. The announcement was made in early December.
According to a resolution passed by commissioners, public hearings are tentatively slated in 2019 for January 3 and 10 to allow citizens to voice their opinion on the potential increase in sales tax. Both are set for 11 a.m., during standard commissioner meetings, which are traditionally scheduled on Thursdays in the Gallia Courthouse.
“This year we’re looking at over 50 percent of our costs going to criminal justice,” said Gallia Board of Commissioners President David Smith. “This is not a reflection of any one particular person or against any (organization). If it’s anything, we feel it’s because our (area law enforcement) is doing a good job and we have a major drug problem…We’ve had a problem coming and we’ve been working in the last year for solutions to this problem. I would surely put out there that a new jail is being considered as a possible solution to that. We’ve set the case enough and we think people are aware and one of those factors is due to the age of our facility.”
The Gallia Jail is reportedly a 22-bed facility and over 70-years old and housing more inmates due to growing prisoner populations and the opioid epidemic. Smith said it was not unusual to have “over 40 plus” inmates in the jail in recent times.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103