Andy Sutak is passionate about Belmont County. The Martins Ferry native serves as the county auditor, and carries out his extensive duties meticulously.
As auditor, Sutak is the chief fiscal officer of the county. In regards to finances, Sutak likes what he sees currently going on in Belmont County.
Andy and two of his aides - Robert "Chic" Cicogna and Larry Greenwood - took me on a three-hour tour of Belmont County recently. The trio delivered me up close and personal to many of the new business operations taking shape in the county.
It was eye-opening.
Belmont County is on the threshold of great things. If the county would have landed the cracker plant we would have passed through that threshold.
Sutak said if the county can secure a gas refinery or cracker it would be the impetus we need to fully realize the shale potential.
"Almost all parts of the county are involved," Sutak said. "Leasing began late last year, now the pads are being installed.
"The county is seeing some crazy activity, but we are barely scratching the surface," Sutak added. "We have a chance to become the next Saudi Arabia."
Sutak noted the drilling boom's effects will be wide ranging.
"The spinoff business will be felt in the coming months and will be widespread," he noted. "It will also help school districts as it will improve their millage rates."
Prior to our tour, I was unaware of the role stone and limestone played in the industrial workings of Belmont County. It is big and getting bigger as the drilling companies are in dire need of it.
Helping quench the stone thirst of these firms are a couple of impressive quarries to go with a burgeoning operation in Martins Ferry.
Our first stop was at National Lime & Stone, just north of the steel plant in the Purple City. It receives limestone via rail and stockpiles the finished product at the location and scales it out to local contractors, concrete customers and the Ohio Department of Transportation. The Ferry venue boasts boundless potential.
Two other quarries are doing bustling business. Egypt Valley Stone is producing stone at a feverish pace while another large and thriving quarry is located near Flushing.
While navigating westward, drilling sites could be found with regularity, with ample space for many more. The industrial park in Barnesville is welcoming much more construction while Fox Commerce Park, situated west of St. Clairsville, has added so many new businesses recently that it will virtually be out of space come summer's end.
Who would have thought of such development just a few years back?
"A lot of new things are coming, but we could use them now. By 2014 we should be a lot closer to where we want to be," Sutak said. "Our hotels and motels are at a 90 percent occupancy rate. We are finally climbing out of our financial sinkhole."
Making the shale boom even sweeter for Eastern Ohio is that it is no short-term fix. It will be pumping life and dollars in the area for decades.
UNIVERSITY OF Akron football assistant coach Jeff Bowden paid a visit to Martins Ferry High Tuesday. On his radar was Purple Riders' stud fullback Trent Neavin. Bowden is the brother of Zips' head coach Terry Bowden and son of legendary Bobby Bowden. Neavin has several Division I grid trips in the offing, such as Pitt and Wisconsin. The University of Virginia has also made overtures to the 245-pounder.
SPEAKING OF Martins Ferry, traffic congestion could be relieved at the Hanover Street stop light by adding a green left turn arrow for those coming up the hill from Ohio 7.
THE BELMONT County Council of American Ladies Auxiliary made its annual journey to the Chillicothe Veterans Hospital on April 19. Betty Kotson reports that 70 veterans were in attendance at the hospital. She says auxiliary members were accompanied by Legion members and some non-members. The patients sang, danced and were treated to food, refreshments and gifts. Kotson wants to thank all those who donated to the cause.
THE ALL-AMERICAN Days Festival Committee will be having a Reverse Drawing and Kick-Off Dinner on May 11 from 6-9 p.m. at the Bellaire Sons Of Italy. The price is $20 per ticket and this includes food, soft drinks and a chance to win the grand prize of $1,000. There will also be a cash bar. Tickets are on sale at The Bellaire Sons Of Italy, Ohio River Valley Elks, the mayor's office in Bellaire or by calling 740-676-4817.
THE BELLAIRE Area Chamber of Commerce and the CSA of Bellaire will be planting flowers in the historic village park on Monday at 10 a.m. If you wish to help plant, bring your garden gloves and trowel. The flowers will be provided.
NATIONAL DRUG Take Back Day proved a major success in Ohio last weekend. The Ohio Attorney General's Office partnered with members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and local and state law enforcement officers to collect outdated or unwanted prescription drugs. More than 13 tons (26,207 pounds) of prescription medications were disposed of in Ohio alone. National Drug Take Back Day is held twice a year.
IT IS very sad times for many West Bellaire residents as the Forest Hills Community Center is being sold. The association is accepting sealed bids until May 15 for the popular center, which is frequently used for a wide variety of social events. The problem lies with a lack of able-bodied and willing individuals to clean the place after events. It is also used as a polling site. Rumor has it that a shale drilling firm and a local caterer are interested suitors.
THE VILLAGE of Bellaire is holding the first of two free trash disposal days on Saturday, May 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the service garage, located at 419 37th St. The service is free to all Bellaire garbage customers with a copy of your billing account. Items not eligible are: landscape waste, liquids (paint, motor oil sludge), toxic waste or materials (asbestos), batteries, medical waste, construction and demolition debris and gas tanks of any kind. Representatives of the Knights of Columbus will be on hand to take any metal items you wish to discard. You may call for metal pickup at 676-8688. Also, representatives from Electronics Recycling Services will be there to take any electronics you have for recycling. Volunteers are needed to help that day to help with a village-wide litter cleanup. Gloves and bags will be provided as well as lunch. Anyone interested, call 740-676-7011 or the mayor's office at 676-6539 by May 10. The second cleanup is scheduled for Aug. 11.
Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader online.com