MEIGS COUNTY — As we approach the end of 2016, The Daily Sentinel is taking a look back at some of the top stories of the year and what has taken place in Meigs County.
Today, we will take a look back at April, May and June, with each of the following days taking a look at three month segments, concluding on Sunday.
Supreme Court visits Meigs County
The Ohio Supreme Court made a visit to Meigs County, holding off-site hearings at Meigs High School as part of its twice a year off-site court public program.
Students from around the county were in attendance for oral arguments on three cases, while some were able to take part in a question-and-answer session with the justices before the hearings. This was the first time the court had been in Meigs County.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor addressed students first and introduced her fellow justices. All justices gave brief introductions of themselves and their career highlights.
One student in the crowd asked why the justices originally became lawyers and what led them to pursue careers in law. Some justices responded that they had not originally considered careers in law. One was a teacher, another a police officer and another a military service member, as well as registered nurse. Justices encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities no matter where they may arise. A common theme emerged that the want and desire to help individuals and affect lives was shared among the justices. Problems needed solving, attorneys, judges and justices are often the arbiters of the fate of everyday people, they said.
“Remember, the only person who can shut a door for your future is yourself by doing something at this age, something in college, something later on that is going to preclude you from moving and attaining your goals,” O’Connor said.
Cases heard that day included Donald Caster v. City of Columbus and Kimberly Jacobs, chief, Columbus Division of Police (Case Number: 2014-1621), State v. Matthew Ailim (Case Number: 2015-0677) and State v. Demetrius Jones (Case Number: 2015-1427).
Since 1987, the off-site court program has been used to enhance students’ understanding of the Ohio legal system by providing opportunities to observe proceedings in person and to interact with justices, attorneys and court staff.
Middleport man allegedly murdered in own home
A Middleport man was found dead in his residence on May 4.
The body of Dale Miller, 74, was discovered after a call was made to police to conduct a routine well-being check. They initiated the check at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at a home in the 600 block of High Street.
Late that day, a Racine man who Meigs County law enforcement officials believe played a role in the death of Miller was found dead in a West Virginia hotel room.
Gary Michael Johnson Jr., 34, of Racine, was found at the Quality Inn in Ripley, West Virginia, at about 10:30 p.m. on May 4, roughly 12 hours after Meigs County authorities discovered the body of Miller in the basement of his home.
Daboni sentenced to 32 years on drug charges
A Meigs County man who convicted in early May of numerous drug related charges and was sentenced to 32 years in prison.
Jacques Georges Daboni received the maximum sentence of up to 32 years in prison from Judge I. Carson Crow after he was found guilty in Meigs County Common Pleas Court of 12 counts of trafficking in heroin, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and possession of drugs.
According to Meigs County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jeremy Fisher at the sentencing hearing, Daboni moved into the area solely for the purpose of trafficking in heroin. Fisher asked the court for the maximum on each count to “send a message” to others that trafficking heroin in Meigs County would not be tolerated.
Defense Attorney Jason Holdren outlined reasons Daboni, who he said maintained his innocence, should not be given the maximum sentence. Holdren argued his client did not have any prior felony convictions and was the father of three children. He asked Daboni be considered on his own history, instead of sentencing being about “sending a message.”
Middleport business destroyed by alleged arson
Ingles Carpet and Flooring on North Second Avenue in Middleport, along with a neighboring building were destroyed by fire in what is alleged to have been a case of arson.
Firefighters from around the county were on the scene to keep the fire from spreading further. Reports at the time of the fire indicated the possible cause of the fire may have been a lit gas can thrown into either a building or the alleyway behind the buildings.
The following afternoon, Middleport Police Chief Bruce Swift reported that Keith R. Day of Middleport had been arrested on the charge of aggravated arson.
After fire crews confirmed the structure was fully involved, additional fire departments were called to the scene to assist. The Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia-Meigs was also called in for assistance due to the task force allegedly receiving a tip that the fire was intentionally started.
After speaking with several witnesses in the area, Middleport police and task force agents took Day into custody.
During the fire’s progression, the back wall of the Ingles Carpet and Flooring building collapsed and the contents of the building added to the fire’s intensity. The fire was under control by 3 a.m., but had left the Ingles building completely destroyed. In total, seven fire departments were on the scene including Middleport, Pomeroy, Rutland, Syracuse, Racine, Mason and the New Haven. Also present were Middleport police, Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, Pomeroy Police and Meigs EMS.
A day of ribbon cuttings at new facilities
May 20 was a busy day for officials in Meigs County as it served as the official ribbon cutting and opening for the MedFlight/EMS building and the new Canine Rescue and Adoption Center.
The ceremony for the inauguration of medical helicopter services in Meigs County was a culmination of efforts to modernize and provide first-rate medical service to the area.
Thomas E. Allenstein, president and CEO of MedFlight, opened celebrations for the Meigs site and said the company has a long history in southeastern Ohio.
He said the company believes in “Partners for Life, and building a long-term relationship with Meigs Emergency Medical Services is important to their goal of proving services to rural areas.
Meigs EMS Director Robbie Jacks said when he came on board, he looked for ways to make EMS better.
“I always look at things and ask, ‘How can I make this better?’ Many people joined the call to improve our emergency services. It is a challenge working in a rural area. There is a lack of resources available, and there is a need to partner.” He said that by looking to Holzer Health System and then to Med Flight, finding a suitable location and funding, everyone involved was able to “look outside of the box” to accomplish their goal of having a first-class EMS facility.
“No one said this can’t be done,” Jacks said. “A rural area has it disadvantages, but those don’t outweigh the advantages. What Meigs County has is people who will work together to get the equipment and resources necessary to accomplish a goal.”
While the MedFlight/EMS facility was a first for the area, the new Megis County Canine Rescue and Adoption Center replaced the former dog shelter as a much needed upgrade for the county.
All of the upgrades provide a more positive experience for both humans and canines. The center is approximately 2,432 square feet and includes a welcoming waiting room, a main office and a viewing room with small kennels where dogs can be more visibly seen by the public. Restrooms, a back room with 24 large dog kennels, a puppy area and a working area that includes a maintenance facility with a washer and dryer are also part of the new facility.
Meigs County Cooperative Parish pays off loan
In the fall of 2015 an anonymous donor challenged the churches of the Meigs County Cooperative Parish to pay off the almost $60,000 loan balance by offering to match half of the amount owing if the parish raises $30,000 by Nov. 1.
Although the loan’s maturity date was not until April 2019, parish officials felt it was an opportunity to pay off the loan early, thus started the fundraising efforts to meet that goal.
Located in the former Pomeroy Grade School, the building was purchased in 2003 for $1. Renovations were necessary and funds came from donations, as well as a loan for $260,000 that required monthly payments. The nonprofit organization is made up of 23 churches throughout Meigs County that came together with a mission of “growing, sharing and uniting God’s people.”
The facility provides a space for numerous ministries including Mulberry Community Kitchen, Thrift Store and Food Pantry. The parish has many projects it sponsors and is used by many in the community as a meeting place.
With the loan paid off, a mortgage burning ceremony was held in May to celebrate the loan being paid off ahead of schedule.
Eastern Local announces new Superintendent
Then-Meigs High School Principal Steve Ohlinger was officially hired as the superintendent of Eastern Local Schools, replacing Scot Gheen who accepted the same position with Meigs Local.
Eastern receives Momentum Award
Eastern Local Schools was recognized as a recipient of an inaugural Momentum Award by the Ohio State Board of Education.
Ohio State School Board President Thomas Gunlock congratulated the district, “As one of the first winners of this award, you are part of an elite group of schools that are supporting the academic growth of students from every background and ability level.”
Only districts that scored all A’s on value-added measures for the 2014-2015 report card were eligible for recognition, and Eastern was among the 52 districts out of 611 statewide that received the award. In addition to the district award, Eastern Elementary (K-8) also received a Momentum Award for its performance. They were one of only 165 schools in that category to receive such an honor.
Pomeroy Library renovations completed
The Pomeroy Library Renovation Project which began in September 2015 was unveiled to the public during an open house in May.
The library was completely redesigned to more easily service its users. According to Library Director Kristi Eblin at the time of the open house, money for this project came from the library’s own building fund, which is separate from the money used to operate the library.
The renovations allowed the library to update and make the space more user-friendly. It was designed to make use of every available space, which had been limited due to the buildings location between the main road in front and the hill behind. Plans that seemed impossible at the time has come to fruition: the library is much larger as a result of taking advantage of a no longer needed Bookmobile garage and expanding the building upwards.
Cicadas arrive for 17-year visit
The largest group of periodical cicadas, the 17-year variety, invaded the area.
The insects spend most of their lives as nymphs burrowed underground. Their nourishment comes from sucking sap from tree roots. They emerge from their underground home once every 17 years, transform into adults, reproduce, and then die.
Cicadas are considered a delicacy by many people around the world and are low in fat, high in protein and gluten free. According to experts, the best way to eat cicadas is to collect them in the middle of the night as they emerge from their burrows and before their skins harden and boil for about a minute. National Geographic stated the animal world benefits from the cicadas’ arrival. Songbirds and their young appreciate the plentifully and nutritious insects. Moles thrive on the fully grown nymphs in the weeks prior to the cicadas emergence, and they are also a treat for snakes and spiders.
Annoyingly loud and constant, the cicadas did not last long and will not return for another 17 years.
Shaw nominated for Emmy for Our Town: Pomeroy
Evan Shaw of WOUB Public Media and the Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact garnered seven different Emmy nominations from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Ohio Valley Chapter.
Shaw was nominated in the following categories for “Our Town:Pomeroy”: Documentary-Historical: WOUB and Storytelling Institute, Editor-Program, Composite, WOUB and Storytelling Institute, Photographer-Program, Composite: “Our Town: Pomeroy,” WOUB and Storytelling Institute, and Audio: “Our Town-Pomeroy,” WOUB and Storytelling Institute.
Shaw has previously been awarded Emmys, but this nomination was special.
“Being able to make a film about my hometown, and then seeing that film nominated for an Emmy is absolutely a highlight of my career,” he said.
“Our Town: Pomeroy” was the second in WOUB’s series and focused on the historic Ohio River town of Pomeroy in Meigs County. The documentary was produced by WOUB Public Media, and visits towns large and small to uncover their histories, highlight their unique contributions to the region and explore the directions they are headed.
Meigs Primary teacher competes in Miss USA Pageant
Meigs Elementary teacher Megan Wise competed in the Miss USA Pageant as Miss Ohio on June 5, making the Top 15 in the competition.
Wise’s students were featured in the introductory video played as part of the pageant broadcast.
Body found in Portland gravel pit
The body of Brandon M. Lupardus of Millwood, West Virginia, was found on the property of Shelly Gravel Company. Lupardus had been shot and killed.
Christopher M. Dailey of Sandyville, West Virginia, was charged with the murder and pleased guilty in December in the case. Dailey has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.