A look back

Memorable stories from ‘19

By Dean Wright - deanwright@aimmediamdiwest.com

Remains of the Silver Bridge Collapse rested along the Ohio River bank as West Virginia Department of Transportation crews removed concrete debris and metal in June 2019.

Remains of the Silver Bridge Collapse rested along the Ohio River bank as West Virginia Department of Transportation crews removed concrete debris and metal in June 2019.

Dean Wright | OVP

GALLIA COUNTY — A new year is upon area residents and the Gallipolis Daily Tribune is taking a look back on some of the major events across Gallia County in April, May and June of 2019.

A look at more of 2019 in Gallia will come in future editions of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.

In March 2019, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities demolished the old five-story medical and surgical building on the Gallipolis Developmental Center campus. The building was built in the late 1950s and seen by some as a turning point in what had previously been called the Gallipolis State Institute. It reportedly allowed for the care and hospitalization of around 100 patients. The building once housed an X-ray lab, a dental clinic, morgue and surgical unit. GDC administration indicated the building was leaning and considered a structural hazard and demolition was necessary for the safety of the public and residents living on the center’s campus.

March 8, 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced federal disaster assistance was being 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. 5-13, 2019.

Federal funding was available to state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by severe storms, flooding, and landslides in Adams, Athens, Brown, Gallia, Guernsey, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton, and Washington counties.

The declaration from President Donald Trump came less than a month after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in the same counties as a result of the damage from flooding in early February 2019.

Area stakeholders met April 25, 2019 with Ohio Department of Transportation representatives, Gallia County officials and the Mannik and Smith Group engineering firm to discuss ongoing plans to potentially modify the Ohio 7 and US 35 interchange at the Gallia Courthouse.

The target area of a previous study for the project extended northeast to US 35’s connection with State Route 7, US 35’s approach to the Silver Bridge, Farm Road, Burnett Road, State Route 735, Ohio 7’s entrances and exits onto US 35 and southwest onto Eastern Avenue in Gallipolis.

According to crash history of the study, between 2014 and 2016, the highest three crash areas detailed in the study were at an intersection with Eastern Avenue entering the Silver Bridge Plaza totally at 23 collisions, a no traffic light entrance into Ohio River Plaza from Eastern Avenue totaling at 20 collisions and the intersection of Burnett Road with highway State Route 735.

Some peak traffic observed by the study noted that around 15,000 travel Eastern Avenue between its intersection with the Silver Bridge Plaza and GKN Sinter Boulevard daily. Nearly 17,000 vehicles were counted daily utilizing US 35’s connection with the Silver Bridge just west of US 35’s connection with State Route 735 and Burnett Road.

Gallia Academy High school supporters joined together May 9, 2019 at the Colony Club to hold a kickoff fundraiser for the school’s stadium and STEM project. Phase One of the proposed project is to build a fully functioning 20,000 square foot field house with classrooms. The 10,000 square foot first floor is presently designed to accommodate the athletic needs (dressing rooms, weight training, restrooms, showers, officers, storage, etc.) of all the athletics at GAHS, as well as a concession and restroom facility which will serve all sporting events at the Eastman Athletic Complex. The potential second story of the field house would provide students with classrooms and conference rooms equipped with advanced technology. These rooms would serve the instructional and educational needs of students with strong focus for science, technology, engineering and medicine. Around $69,000 was raised during the event.

Buckeye Hills Career Center students and programs celebrated the center’s first Career Signing Day May 8, 2019 where students signed documents of intent to join employment with area businesses and where Ohio’s Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and then State Representative and Gallia native Ryan Smith were present to wish them well.

“This is the first year we’ve ever done it and today we had around 20 to 25 students and we also sign another 20 to 25 students tomorrow through SkillsUSA and those are our carpentry, construction programs and things of that nature,” said Buckeye Hills Superintendent Jamie Nash. “My goal is simple. In the next 12 to 24 months, I want every senior that is in line to graduate to be job placed by second semester their senior year…We’re looking at bringing in a full-time job placement coordinator…We had a good percentage today and will tomorrow. This is my first year here as superintendent. In the future, we want 75 to 85 percent job placement and we would like to have that percentage on signing day.”

In a process that was reportedly started at the beginning of the year, then University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College Interim President Dr. Catherine Clark in late May told reporters with Ohio Valley Publishing, the partnering institutions were looking to discontinue multiple degree and certificate programs.

“Our message is that we are strengthening Rio’s focus by streamlining course offerings and discontinuing certain under enrolled degree programs to meet the educational needs and goals of our students and the communities we serve,” said a statement released by Clark.

In a story published by Ohio Valley Publishing on June 9, 2019, according to information provided by unnamed faculty sources, the faculty body at the University of Rio Grande took a vote of no confidence in the respective boards of trustees for the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College on April 18, 2019, to voice their concerns with the educational institutions’ direction.

In a letter describing the body’s reason for no confidence, the text states the faculty takes issue with four points it alleges as “financial mismanagement,”“lack of continuity in campus leadership,”“failure to enact a long-term strategic plan,” and “failure to collaboratively govern” the college and university.

Chair of the RGCC Board of Trustees Paul Reed released in a statement that he commended the faculty for expressing concerns and “demanding excellence from the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College.”

He went on to describe that the current structure of RGCC and URG is a result of “what is written in the Ohio Revised Code.” He calls it an “antiquated solution that worked years ago but doesn’t allow for the institutions to operate at their best today.”

Reed’s statement concluded: “The Board of the Rio Grande Community College knows that business as usual is leading to failure and wants to work with the University of Rio Grande Board and the Ohio legislature to build a solution beneficial to our students and our community.

“…The University of Rio Grande’s Board of Trustees has heard the sentiments of the faculty members and is committed to working together in a constructive manner for the benefit of the communities and students served by the institution,” read a statement then from URG’s Board of Trustees Chair Kay Ervin.

Pieces of the Silver Bridge Collapse were recovered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation along the banks of the Ohio River in Kanauga the week of June 12, 2019. The disaster wreckage that gained national attention and claimed the lives of 46 individuals in the freezing waters of the Ohio on December 15, 1967 was pulled from mud and overgrowth on the banks of 612 State Route 7. Landowner Terry Burnett said getting the wreckage cleared had been on her “bucket list” for years. The wreckage had been reportedly outside the target area of original recovery efforts after the collapse.

“It’s hard to tell what’s in the water still but it’s on the land and the water,” said Burnett. “There’s a car down there somewhere too.”

“It’s history,” said West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways District One Bridge Engineer Tracy Brown. “This started the bridge inspection program nationwide. I always say that for someone who works in bridges coming here to Point Pleasant and Gallipolis is like visiting the Holy Land. That’s our equivalent because this is where our work started. There wasn’t even a bridge department in the (WVDOH) districts until this happened. Now each district has a bridge inspection program and engineer that has to make national standards.”

Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. He can be reached at 740-446-2342. Beth Sergent and Sarah Hawley contributed to this report.

Remains of the Silver Bridge Collapse rested along the Ohio River bank as West Virginia Department of Transportation crews removed concrete debris and metal in June 2019.
https://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2020/01/web1_0611191407_HDR.jpgRemains of the Silver Bridge Collapse rested along the Ohio River bank as West Virginia Department of Transportation crews removed concrete debris and metal in June 2019. Dean Wright | OVP
Memorable stories from ‘19

By Dean Wright