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Cracker plant topped area news in March

December 22, 2012
From staff reports , The Herald-Star

The decision by planners to locate a proposed cracker plant outside of the immediate Tri-State Area topped the news in March.

Shell Oil announced it had picked the 300-acre Horsehead zinc property in nearby Monaca, Pa., for the site of a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker, a plant that would convert the ethane from natural gas into ethylene used in petrochemicals for the plastics industry.

The March 15 announcement dashed hopes among West Virginia leaders that the company would build the plant in Hancock County, or in Southeastern Ohio.

West Virginia officials, who'd hoped to persuade Shell to build on a 250-acre parcel next to Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, said they expected to reap the benefits of downstream business opportunities locally, since the Monaca site is less than a half-hour's drive from Weirton, comments echoed by state and local leaders in Jefferson County.

West Virginia officials insisted Marcellus and Utica shale operations in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania and Southeastern Ohio could support more than one cracker.

Also in March MarkWest Energy Partners leased 207 acres in Cadiz's industrial park to construct a pumping station. The $1,051,000 deal included 21 acres along the front of Industrial Park Road and 21 acres along U.S. Route 22 at $15,064 per acre. The 165 acres in between was leased for $2,500 per acre.

MarkWest, a Colorado-based energy company involved in gathering, processing and transporting natural gas, said its Harrison County operations will produce 100,000 barrels per day of fractionation, storage and marketing capacity, and will boast 200 million cubic feet per day of cryogenic processing capacity.

Local officials said construction of the plant and the pipeline infrastructure through the county represented an investment of $500 million to $1 billion.

MarkWest also purchased the Rosebud Mining headquarters on East Market Street in Cadiz for an administrative office for Ohio operations, creating about 20-25 jobs.

In other news in March:

Jefferson County commissioners on March 8 approved a tight budget for the year, but there were hopes revenue would increase for the next year's budget.

The general fund budget totaled $13,478,862, about $200,000 less than in 2011.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said there was a lot of work put into finalizing the budget. Commissioners met in September with department heads warning of an tight budget. County Commissioner Tom Gentile complemented county department heads for keeping spending down through the end of 2011 and turning money back in, which helped in keeping the 2012 budget nearly the same as last year.

County Commissioner David Maple said he was pleased with the tight spending by the departments in 2011.

Graham said the commissioners kept operations at the county jail the same. He said the commissioners didn't want to reduce the number of prisoners housed at the jail.

Maple said he hoped the 2013 budget would improve with increased revenue because of the oil and gas drilling. He cautioned the oil and gas drilling market could fluctuate and the county should keep that in mind next year.

Jefferson County Engineer James Branagan told the county commissioners in March that 2011 was one of the most productive years in his more than two decades as county engineer, thanks to road work done by Chesapeake Energy.

Branagan presented his department's annual report that showed major help from Chesapeake Energy.

Chesapeake rebuilt and paved 11 miles of county roads in 2011 at a cost of $400,000 a mile as part of the road-use agreement the county had with gas drilling companies.

Branagan said Chesapeake's subcontractors either did base repairs or full-depth reclamation where the existing road was pulverized to a depth of 16 inches, adding cement and water, grading and compacting and then paving with asphalt.

Chesapeake also improved shoulders, culverts, drainage, adding catch basins and road ditches, Branagan said.

Voters turned down a 1-mill operating levy proposal for the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School during the March 6 election.

The levy would have generated $1.1 million annually.

Superintendent Dale Edwards at the time said that with the levy failing to pass, the school would have to resort to a "Band-aid type approach" toward the facility repairs the building needs.

Voters would again turn down the levy in November.

A 9.45-mill continuous operating levy that would have prevented major cuts within the Edison Local School District was declined passage by local voters during the March 6 election.

The levy would have generated approximately $3 million year and would have went toward maintaining existing programs and preventing additional cuts and closures in the district.

Voters again rejected the levy proposal in November, and school officials have said major district cuts would have to be made.

The Indian Creek School District failed to pass a proposed 4.95-mill bond issue and operating levy during the March 6 election.

The 4.95-mill levy - a 3.5-mill bond issue and a 1.45-mill five-year operating levy - would have provided the school district with $22 million for a new high school building. The school district would have been responsible for $15 million, according to officials, while the Ohio School Facilities Commission would have provided $7 million.

Voters would again turn down the levy proposal in November.

Glenn D. Chaffee, 54, of 615 Logan Ave., Mingo Junction, was sentenced to four years in prison on March 29 by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge David Henderson after Chaffee admitted to pointing a shotgun at a Mingo Junction police officer in September.

Chaffee pleaded guilty to two counts of felonious assault and single counts of felonious assault on a police officer and attempted murder.

The county prosecutor's office reported Chaffee was involved in a domestic dispute with his wife on Sept. 3, 2011, at their home. Chaffee beat on his wife for several hours, the prosecutor's office reported. Chaffee pointed a shotgun at his wife but the gun misfired, so he broke the shotgun into pieces, the prosecutor's office reported.

Around 7 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2011, the wife was able to call 911 but was unable to speak because her husband was nearby. Mingo Junction Police responded to the home and found Chaffee sitting on the front porch, the prosecutor's office reported. The officer said he needed to speak to the wife and went inside, while Chaffee went into another room, the prosecutor's office reported.

Chaffee came out of the room with a shotgun and told the officer "not to do it," the prosecutor's office reported. The officer, according to the prosecutor's office, determined he was unable to draw his service weapon in time so he charged Chaffee, tackled him and removed the shotgun, with assistance from the county sheriff's department.

Darin Sherman Bell, 45, of 1014 county Road 23, Bloomingdale, who was found guilty of one count of felony dogfighting, was ordered by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Henderson in March to spend two weekends in jail and will be on probation for two years.

A common pleas court jury found Bell guilty of one count of felony dogfighting but innocent of another count of dogfighting. Henderson dismissed a third county of dogfighting prior to the jury beginning deliberations.

The Jefferson County Drug Task Force raided Bell's home in August 2010 looking for cultivated marijuana. The drug task force notified the county's dog warden when 205 pit bulls were found on the property. The jury determined Bell sold, purchased or trained a dog for dogfighting but didn't promote, engage in or was employed in dogfighting.

Henderson also ordered Bell not to possess pit bulls or other dogs used in dogfighting or associate with known dogfighters.

The once booming steel town that has seen more than its share of unemployment and recession woes in recent years became a centerpiece in March for the Republican presidential primary battle for Ohio's 66 convention delegates.

Two weeks after Rick Santorum found an enthusiastic capacity crowd at Froehlich's Classic Corner restaurant the Republican candidate returned to Steubenville to await the results of the Super Tuesday primary elections in March.

Santorum may have won the popular vote in the 6th Congressional District but could not collect any delegates from the district because his campaign failed to file enough signatures for delegates to the Republican primary.

According to local Santorum organizer Michael Hernon, the former Pennsylvania senator insisted on returning to Steubenville for what could have been the most important night of his presidential campaign.

Steubenville Council gave City Manager Cathy Davison a generally favorable job review on March 20 and encouraged Davison to focus on building the city's water customers and attracting business to the downtown.

The annual job evaluation came as Davsion entered the third and final year of her current three-year contract.

Council members met in a two-hour executive session on March 11 to discuss their personal views on Davison's job performance.

Looking at Harding Middle and Pugliese West Elementary Schools, there was a lot of "marvelous integration" that could be seen, according to Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar, who visited the school in March.

"I feel the majority of schools in Ohio should be doing this - the integration from a child's early years of education to their later. It needs to be replicated at larger schools," said Terhar.

Terhar and Sarah Dove, teacher liaison to the governor's office, visited Steubenville City Schools to tour the facilities and to get an upclose and personal look at what has earned the district so many excellent ratings.

It must have been a feeling of deja vu for Dharani Kotekal, an eighth-grader from Indian Creek Junior High School, after she was the last speller standing during the 2012 Jefferson County Regional Spelling Bee presented by Eastern Gateway Community College and the Herald-Star on March 10 at Buckeye North Elementary School.

Kotekal, who previously won the county bee in 2010 and placed second last year, reclaimed her title as top speller in the 20th round Saturday by correctly spelling the word "nativistic."

Kotekal proceeded to the National Scripps Bee in Washington, D.C., in early June, where she placed in the top 25 spellers in the country.

The Community Improvement Corp.'s board of directors spelled out the selection process for new officers in March, ending weeks of controversy. Board members, meeting for the third time in as many months for the purpose of reorganizing, stressed the need to "move forward, do what needs to be done" for the betterment of the community.

James R. Threat, 28 of Steubenville was sentenced to four years in prison by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. on March 14 after pleading guilty to two counts of robbery.

Threat was arrested by City Police in connection with the Dec. 16 robbery of Kwik King on North Seventh Street. County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said Threat walked into Kwik King armed with a knife and stole money from a clerk and a customer.

On March 15, the Brooke County school board accepted the resignation of Tom Bruney as Brooke High School's head football coach. In his three years as coach, Bruney led the Brooke Bruins to two state championship attempts and one Ohio Valley Athletic Conference victory. But Bruney said false accusations against him and his family prompted him to resign.

Kathy Kidder, Brooke County superintendent, said she and other officials investigated the accusations and found none to be true, but she agreed with Bruney that his resignation would be best for the football program.

On March 17 a supervisor at Ohio American Energy's Salt Run 1 Mine near Brilliant was killed in an accident. Officials with the federal Mining Safety and Health Administration confirmed Walter McAfee, 55, of Jewett was crushed between a highwall mining machine and front-end loader.

William Harmon, 29, of Steubenville, was shot and killed on March 20 by a Weirton police officer outside the Misty Cove Laundromat. Brooke County Assistant Prosecutor David F. Cross said Harmon charged at the officer and appeared to be bearing a metal object.

Cross said Harmon had robbed the Sunoco gas station earlier that morning using a serated knife, and under the circumstances, the shooting was justified.

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