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Murray Energy Office Building Rising West of St. Clairsville

June 12, 2011
Al Molnar , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Construction has been started on a huge 14,641 square foot office building for the Murray Energy Corp. on historic National Road, two miles west of St. Clairsville in East Richland.

Earthmoving operations at the 16-acre site undertaken by the Nicholozakes Trucking & Construction Co. of Cambridge are expected to be completed in about five weeks paving the way for actual construction of what is being described as an attractive three-story structure.

Mark-L Construction of Columbus is general contractor on the project which is expected to be completed in about a year. Tim Bookman, construction superintendent, said the grading operation will cut down the gradual slope of the site by five feet to prepare it for the building footer installation.

The contracting firm has already set up an office at the site which is located just west of the East Richland Evangelical Friends Church. Bookman said the building will measure 121 x 121 feet and that during peak periods of construction there could be 50 or more workers on the job.

Shortly after acquiring the acreage from the East Richland Church, Rob Murray, vice president of business development and external affairs, revealed the company is short of office space. The new building will be serving as the corporate headquarters for Murray Energy which includes three independent operating subsidiaries The Ohio Valley Coal Co. in Alledonia, OhioAmerican Energy, Inc. in Brilliant and American Energy Corp. in Beallsville. The mines operated by those three companies employ more than 1,300 workers.

Murray Energy, of which Robert E. Murray is president and CEO, acquired the 16-acre site in October 2010 for $218,033 under the name of American Coal Sales Co. of Beallsville, according to the deed document.

Two other other business developments in Belmont County surfaced last week, including one that would bring badly needed new jobs. Reports from various sources in the county indicated a new business that would employ about 20 workers is coming to Martins Ferry. But officials in the county and in Martins Ferry were remaining tight-lipped about it. According to one county official, an announcement on the business is anticipated on Thursday.

The other involved the death of one thriving business and the birth of another to take its place. When customers of Paradox Motor Sports (PMS) went to the store at the Ohio Valley Mall last week, they found a big sign posted at the entrance. It read: "Closed. Moving back to Morristown (exit 208). Special order: pickup customers only. Ring bell at back door entrance. All other customers - we will see you in Morristown." At the back door we found Stephanie Lawson, owner of the business with her husband, Dr. Michael Lawson of Wheeling. She pointed out that because of insurmountable debts that came because of a failed warranty firm filing bankruptcy, PMS was forced to do likewise. "We have been fighting a two and one half year legal battle," she explained. And that has resulted in so many thousands of dollars in expenses that the company was forced into bankruptcy. Moving back to Morristown with a new company "Paradox Motor & Skate" is no reflection on the mall. "The mall has been very understanding and cooperative," she noted. But they have to cut costs including rental payments. In addition to that saving, their employee staff has been reduced from 16 to 4.

There will not be a dealership at the new location. She said their merchandise will include clothing, accessories, riding parts. "We'd do anything to prevent bankruptcy but it just couldn't be avoided," she sighed. "It's very disconcerting."

Belmont County's multi-million dollar 911 public safety emergency communication system which began operating in 1994 in every nook and cranny of the county has been labeled outmoded and urgently in need of a technological fine-tuning to meet modern operating standards.

"Everything is outdated and needs to be replaced," Allan Ketzell III, president of the Belmont County Fire & Squad Officers Association, speaking in behalf of the 911 board of directors, told the county commissioners.

He said to replace, make additions and upgrade the system will cost over $9.2 million. Ketzell outlined the aging shortcomings of the system in requesting the commissioners approve placing a 1 mill levy on the November general election ballot to cover the cost of modernizing the system. Commissioners made no decision on the request and plan to meet with the 911 board at the 911 Center on Bannock Road at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Commissioners stressed that meeting is strictly an informational one and no formal action will be taken by them. In requesting the levy, Ketzell told the commission funds realized from the levy would be utilized by all police, fire and emergency personnel in the county. The funds would be used to purchase mobile and portable radios with accessories, radio infrastructure, radio backbone equipment, dispatch radio consoles, pagers and paging equipment, computers and other sensitive equipment.

Ketzell outlined a possible savings in the overall cost of replacing the equipment by collaborating with Jefferson, Harrison and Monroe counties for a master site operation. That is expected to be one of the issues discussed at Tuesday's meeting.

While some hotel/motel operations around the country are suffering because of the economic slowdown, that's not the case in Belmont County. During February, March and April, when tourist travel is normally on the downturn, the businesses locally continued on an upscale trend just as it did during the summer months. Statistics compiled for those three months reveal an occupancy rate of 74 percent of all available rooms at the seven larger hotel/motels in the county. Exactly how much revenue was brought into the county is uncertain but it is in excess of $2.5 million for the three month period. "These three months are usually slow months because of the decline in tourist travel. These figures are not as high as during the summer months but the numbers are pretty good, in fact real good." exclaimed William Goff, manager of America's Best Value Inn, who compiled the figures. Goff said the occupancy rate is boosted by the construction and business development activity in the county. Construction workers coming into the county, as well as power plant workers, those involved with pipeline work, surveyors and the like boost the occupancy rate. "Some of these people stay two and three weeks at a time," Goff added. "I suspect there probably are a number of workers and officials connected with the Marcellus Shale operations that also have been coming into the area." His survey showed that of the 58,473 rooms available during the 3-month period, 42,962 were sold to realize the 74 percent occupancy rate. Room rates vary at the places surveyed but it is estimated the revenue produced from the sale of the rooms ranges from $2.5 to $3.5 million. Included in the survey were Red Roof Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn, Super 8, Holiday Inn, Fairfield Inn and Best Value Inn. Smaller motels not included in the survey were Econo Lodge, Twin Pines, Arrowhead, Hillside, Relax Inn, Sunset Inn or any other bed and breakfast business.

A posthumous leadership award for her outstanding efforts on behalf of children was made last week to the late Deborah Doleski Allen of Wheeling, who passed away in December. She had served many years as executive director of the Ohio County Family Resource Network. Accepting the award from the Leadership Institute on Prevention of Child Abuse in West Virginia during a ceremony in Charleston was her husband, Douglas B. Also in attendance were other family members and her parents, William "Red" Doleski and his wife, Ann, of Lansing.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at:

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