Bellaire Chamber ushers in new president

LOU ANN Bennett is the new president of the Bellaire Chamber of Commerce.

She assumed her new post at Thursday’s monthly chamber luncheon.

Bennett replaces Colleen DeBlasis in that capacity.

Bennett is quite active in village activities. She is the chairwoman for the Bellaire All-American Days and also oversees Boo in the Park, an event which treats more than 500 youths at Halloween.

She also directs the annual Easter Egg Hunt, The BooBoo Buddies program at Belmont Community Hospital and was chairman of The Christmas Parade Committee this past year.

“My goals are to try to get the chamber more involved in the community so people will know that we are here. I would like to have Business After Hours at least quarterly if not more often, start showcasing a different business monthly in our newsletters along with a calendar of events so everyone will know what we are doing,” Bennett said. “The chamber is also going to start selling our calendars with old pictures of Bellaire. These will be sold for $10 and will be available at the chamber office. They can call to pre-order them now.

“I would like for the chamber to start doing ribbon-cutting ceremonies again for new businesses coming into Bellaire along with a gift package for them to show them that we are glad that the chamber is investing in our community,” she added.

Nancy Raeder is the new vice president while Adam Hughes will again serve as treasurer.

The chamber also noted that it will be submitting applications for Belmont County Tourism grants prior to the Feb. 28 deadline.


THE EXPECTED closing of Wolfhurst St. Joseph’s at the end of the academic year is a major blow to Catholic education in Eastern Ohio. The school has a rich tradition whose graduates have went on to great success.

Closing schools such as St. Joe’s is a reflection of the Diocesan hierarchy more concerned with building an unnecessary cathedral in Steubenville than the educational well-being of their students. Why does the Catholic community need more churches and less schools? If population and enrollment decline are blamed for St. Joe’s closing, how can a new cathedral construction be justified? There is no Eastern Ohio population boom that would trigger the need for a new cathedral.

Fewer Catholic schools will lead to fewer people attending Mass. Catholic churches feed off their schools.

Wolfhurst St. Joseph’s is a needed commodity in the Eastern Ohio Catholic community. A new cathedral is not.

Diocesan officials have a few months to correct a looming major mistake. Hopefully, cooler and wiser heads will prevail and Wolfhurst St. Joe’s avoids being laid to rest.


THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce held its first luncheon meeting of 2011 on Tuesday with Jeff Keller taking over as president.

Dates for two chamber-related events were set with the bowling tournament on tap for Feb. 26 and the Academic Awards Banquet scheduled for May 3.

Councilman Paul Riethmiller updated the group on city activities, highlighted by a $140,000 budget carryover. He also noted that the police department is undergoing remodeling.

Riethmiller added that water-meter installation is planned for the city, aided by a $1.2 million grant Martins Ferry has landed. He also added that city council has earmarked $1,500 to the chamber for Christmas decorations.

The chamber also heard from Mike Schlanz of Belmont County Connections. It is the one-stop employment and training center. Schlanz detailed all the services provided by Connections while also outlining a new grant that helps displaced workers.

Chamber Director Dorothy Powell noted that she and secretary Marian Klier continue their efforts to land some businesses in vacant downtown buildings. Powell said she has contacted some eight landlords of those buildings while also hearing from some prospective business owners.

The chamber’s next monthly meeting will be Feb. 15.


IN TODAY’S NFL conference championship games, I like the Packers and love the Steelers to punch their respective Super Bowl tickets. The Pack’s Aaron Rodgers is the best QB going right now while I believe the Steelers’ defense is better than the Jets.

I ENCOURAGE all those able-bodied local residents to get to Wheeling’s WesBanco Arena Monday and donate blood. There is no better way to save a life than give blood. The 25th Annual Media blood drive will be operating from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you cannot give blood, give your time and volunteer your services.

E.J. SCHODZINKSI should be commended for putting on another charity-minded youth basketball clinic. The Ohio University Eastern athletic director staged his annual Martin Luther King basketball camp Monday, attracting some 100 youths from around the area. The big winners on the day were needy children in the valley as the camp fee was either a winter coat or canned foods. Some 40 winter jackets, 150 canned goods and 70 children’s books were collected Monday.

THE BELLAIRE Board of Education’s decision to go with a 1 percent earned income tax on the May ballot was a more prudent move than an 8.9-mill levy. After two 12.9-mill levy defeats, a funding request needed to be packaged in a different format, which the the school board did. Another levy, despite being somewhat smaller, may have been facing the same ill-fated result.

JUST A Reminder…An open house will be held Tuesday for the new court building in Bellaire, which houses both Northern and Eastern Division courts. The event will commence at 4:30 p.m. Northern Division Court Judge Frank Fregiato will deliver some remarks at 5:30. The open house will also allow visitors to meet new Eastern Court Judge John Vavra at that time. Light refreshments will be served.

OVAC OFFICIALS made the right call in canceling the opening-night of activity with the 58th annual conference wrestling tournament Thursday. The roads were a nightmare and would have led to many a problem with teams, workers and fans attempting to reach WesBanco or home afterward. You cannot err on the side of safety. Executive Director Tom Rataiczak made the right decision.

Kapral may be reached at