Road closure requested

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont County Commissioners decided to continue a hearing to temporarily close a portion of Route 104, or Smith Road, in Union Township. County Engineer Fred Bennett noted that Oxford Mining had requested the closure with the plan of strip-mining through the road, then replacing it.

The commissioners have several options, including developing a temporary road.

Pat Kovacs, area resident, inquired about a road-use maintenance agreement. He voiced concerns about the use of heavy equipment on the road.

“It’s not made to support that kind of equipment,” he said, adding that past coal company traffic had left area roads in poor condition and repairs never took place. He also noted that Ohio 149 would have to be maintained to that spot.

Bennett said the county must determine if the coal company intended to use the road.

Kovacs suggested a haul road be installed. He also asked if weight-limit signs could be installed.

Commissioner Matt Coffland noted that road use maintenance agreements designate which routes are taken. However, coal companies have never operated under this restriction. Bennett said Oxford has a record as a good neighbor.

Lonnie Fields, representing Oxford, outlined the coal company’s plan. He said the usage and activity on 104 will be minimal with only occasional pickup traffic. He said the road will not be used for trafficking shipments.

He added that they do not anticipate a lengthy mining and repair process. He estimated three to six months at most. He said they will mine adjacent to the road.

Residents noted that they are not opposed to the work, but want assurances regarding maintaining.

Coffland said the board would look into those details before continuing.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank