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OUE establishes partnership with county

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County has pledged to work closely with local communities and Ohio University Eastern during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the commissioners heard from Warren Galbreth, interim associate dean with the university, and agreed to a compact between the county and university.

“Ohio University and the Belmont County commissioners will work together to ensure that the citizens of Belmont County are safe during the pandemic,” Galbreth said, adding OUE has made a similar agreement with the city of St. Clairsville.

On Oct. 3, OUE will host a pop-up testing site in conjunction with the Belmont County Health Department and Ohio National Guard. Galbreth said other possibilities include OUE providing training and evaluation of county services. He said students continue to learn remotely, except for the science labs that are held in person on campus.

“We’ve done this, so we’ve ensured the safety of faculty, staff and students. We’ve had positive results,” Galbreth said. For spring semester, he said university officials are still debating whether learning will take place online or in person.

“We’re probably leaning more toward remote, but I don’t see remote as being the only avenue,” he said. “Our goal is to get students back on our campus.”

He said the effectiveness of both types of learning are also being taken into account, with some students performing better in person while others are more comfortable using social media to interact in class. He said community outreach and involvement continues to be a trend, and OUE is embracing the concept of One Ohio.

“A program where Ohio University … our services will be central out of Athens, but be delivered at the Eastern campus or one of the other five campuses. We see this as an opportunity to be nimble and able to adjust to whatever the needs are to the different communities.”

He said the university looks forward to working with Belmont County to develop a workforce that can capitalize on area opportunities. Among planned upgrades is a new lab for the Eastern campus for the nursing program. The university was recently approved for a $200,000 grant for the project.

Commissioners J.P. Dutton, Josh Meyer and Jerry Echemann said OUE is an invaluable resource for Belmont County.

“You can’t replace these types of assets,” Dutton said.

OUE and the Voinovich Center will also work with the county and the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association to analyze the area’s drinking water with an eye toward safety and accessibility for all, particularly rural areas that may have some difficulty obtaining water. This is part of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and Partners — Appalachian Drinking Water Initiative.

The county is also in the process of upgrading its water system, with a new water treatment plant site chosen in Bellaire.

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