St. Clairsville home to much activity

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, despite some on and off monsoons, was a beehive of activity Friday afternoon at the Belmont County Courthouse.

The buzz was sparked by Northern Court Judge Frank Fregiato being sworn-in as the new Common Pleas Court judge, replacing the retiring Jennifer Sargus. The ceremony was held in a courtroom much too small to handle the overflow crowd of family, well-wishers and officeholders. It was a virtual “who’s who” of Belmont County.

Judge John Solovan delivered the oath, and Fregiato followed with a passionate and, somewhat surprisingly, brief speech.

The newly minted Common Pleas judge is a community-minded, family-driven people person. He reinforced that by concluding his remarks by saying he wanted to thank everyone in attendance personally.

Judge Fregiato followed through on that in a reception in the adjoining rooms. It was an upbeat celebration for an individual who has personified what the legal profession should be all about.

WHILE AT the ceremony, I crossed paths with the face of St. Clairsville, Mayor Bob Vincenzo. He invited to me to his office, a short jaunt which left us both dripping wet.

The mayor expounded on the meeting held Thursday in St. Clairsville which detailed one of the biggest, if not biggest, developments to ever hit the Hilltop.

It is being termed: St. Clair Commons. It could also be named a St. C. Gold Mine.

The project centers on health and wellness, although a touch of retail, including a hotel, will be involved. Should it come to fruition, which appears quite promising, it would be built on a 90-acre tract, located west of the Lowe’s store at the Ohio Valley Plaza.

The site has been ripe for development for years. Vincenzo and other have attempted countless times to make it happen. While efforts to establish a retail center at the site, situated on the eastern-most part of the city, thoughts turned to health care.

Rob Stein is the managing partner for St. Clair Commons. He has been pushing for development of the site for years.

Now a coalition of heavy hitters are making it happen. Vincenzo and Stein have partnered up with The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center at the Ohio State University, Integrated Health Solutions, the YMCA and Trinity Health to provide traction for a project that would offer countless medical opportunities for Ohio Valley residents while also proving a virtual cash cow for St. C. city coffers.

Vincenzo brought me into the loop Friday. Obviously, a big key is an access road to the eventual center. ODOT has waffled back and forth for years on assisting with such a road. ODOT is now all aboard, and with $7 million local funding available, the road is planned to provide access to St. Clair Commons via U.S. 40.

St. Clair Commons may become reality as early as 2015.

It gets better.

The powers to be with mall operations are looking for development in land west of the mall. Plans are in the works to build a bridge to go over top I-70, connecting St. Clair Commons with a spot near the mall.

The mission of St. Clair Commons is to “Become a health and wellness campus which will integrate various levels of care, with a focus on wellness and prevention.”

Vincenzo says Ohio State does not plan to build any structures on the site, but will continue to provide significant support, including help with the physical and programmatic/operational design of the campus, telehealth capabilities, as well as provide professional clinical education opportunities, plus research opportunities.”

How big is this project?

“If this happens, it will be the greatest thing to happen to St. Clairsville in the last 100 years,” Mayor Vincenzo said.

Enough said.


LONGTIME Times Leader staffer and writing icon Rich “Hoot” Gibson died July 3 after his courageous and yearlong battle with lymphoma. He still is remembered with great fondness by many.

To that effect, the Belmont Mountaineer Athletic Club has arranged for a memorial mass for Hoot. It will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 11:30 a.m. at Martins Ferry’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church. It is located on North Fourth Street. The public is invited.


I HAD never watched “The Winner Is” until Thursday night. St. John Central graduate Katie Orlofske was the magnet for my viewing that evening. I got to know Katie during her prep days in Irishland. I witnessed first hand how much time, passion, work and commitment she put into her singing.

Katie Ohh, as she was known on the TV show, was focused on making it big in the meat market known as professional singing. She performed all over the Ohio Valley, grooming her skills while stepping up the career ladder.

She hit the jackpot Thursday night, defeating some extremely talented singers in coming away victorious on “The Winner Is.” She turned down a guaranteed $200,000 in the final round for a chance for the million. Her self-confidence paid seven-figure dividends.

Undoubtedly, big-time contract offers will come pouring her way. Katie obviously has what it takes to sing on the biggest of stages. At 23, her career knows no bounds. She is a case study if you work hard, believe in your self and stay focused on your dream, you can reach your goals.

Katie is very deserving of her success. Factor in that her driving force to win the $1M was not for herself, but rather to pay for her aunt’s costly cancer treatments, it is the feel-good story that movies are made of.


THE ST. Clairsville Department of Parks and Recreation is seeking crafters for its annual Rib Fest to be held Saturday. Spaces are available for a fee, and crafters are asked to bring their own tables and canopies. No electrical outlets are available. Limited spaces will be available indoors across from the recreation center. There will be no crafters inside the recreation center. For information about reserving table sites, call the center at (740) 695-2037.

THE?NEXT Bellaire Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon/meeting will be Thursday at noon in the Community Room of the Bellaire Public Library. Guest speakers will be board members of the Great Stone Viaduct Society making presentations on bridge improvements, progress with CSX, the upcoming Great Stone Viaduct celebration and the Steam Whistle expo. Cost of the luncheon is $7. There is no charge to attend the meeting. All local businesses and their employees are welcome to attend. Reservations needed by Tuesday, by calling the chamber office 740-676-9723 or email

A SCOTCH doubles bowling event to benefit Special Olympics-Belmont County will take place Friday, Aug. 30 at St. Clair Lanes, St. Clairsville. The event, which gets underway at 8 p.m., will feature food, prizes and a 50/50 giveaway. Registration is $25 per couple. Call St. Clair Lanes at 695-3641 to reserve a spot. Special Olympics Ohio Belmont County is a non-profit organization that provides year-round sports programs for athletes with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The organization exists entirely on sponsorships and donations. Money raised stays local and directly benefits people in Belmont County.

THE RIDERS for A Cure did well in its fundraising quest via the Betty Zane 5K Wednesday. The race generated some $2,000 for the fight against cancer.

BELMONT COUNTY Commissioner Chuck Probst has filed with the board of elections to run for a seat on the Martins Ferry Board of Education. He is in a field of four BOE candidates, vying for three seats in the November election. He cannot serve as a county commissioner if elected to the board of education.

Kapral may be reached at