Editor’s Note: More from our 2018 Year in Review will appear in upcoming editions of The Daily Sentinel.
MEIGS COUNTY — 2018 was a year of milestones, taking steps toward future development and helping one another.
In 2018, the Rio Grande Meigs Center turned 10 and the Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties turned five, while Harrisonville Lodge celebrated 150 years.
It didn’t stop there — The Meigs Performing Arts Center (MPAC) Foundation was formed, the Meigs County Community Foundation presented its first grants and announced the Endow 200 Campaign, and the breaking of boards raised $20,000 for the Meigs County Council on Aging renovation project at its future home in Middleport.
Additionally, two of Meigs Local’s schools were recognized for their successes.
Rio Grenade Meigs Center turns 10
The fall of 2018 marked the 10th anniversary of the Bernard V. Fultz Center for Higher Education/Rio Grande Meigs Center.
Since 2008, a total of 2,259 students have taken classes at the Meigs Center, coming from 35 counties in Ohio and West Virginia for the classes, as well as a total of 14 states and three countries.
“We are proud to be here in Meigs County — ‘Obnoxiously Proud’,” said Meigs Center Director Tom Sutton at the open house celebrating the anniversary, quoting a phrase often used by Economic Development Director Perry Varnadoe.
Sutton expressed his gratitude to the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) who built the center 10 years ago in a partnership with the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College.
“This was the first offsite location (for the college) and it has been very successful,” said Rio Grande Community College Board of Trustees Chair Paul Reed, who is also a member of the CIC.
The center has helped to produce successful students, while adding to the success of the business community.
“The Meigs Center not only provides educational training, but has changed the culture of the community, to have higher education in the county,” said Varnadoe.
Reed noted that the addition of the Rio Grande Meigs Center brings quality to the community. When businesses look to come to an area, one of the things they look for is the option for training in the county. The Meigs Center allow for Meigs County to say that it can provide the training in the county.
When the center was built 10 years ago it was with accessibility in mind, said Sutton. The center is centrally located with easy access to those coming from around the county.
“The importance of success is in providing access and opportunity that students would not have had 10 years ago,” said Sutton. He noted that it is nice to see alumni come back to visit, as well as seeing several graduates who are now local teachers.
“To stand at graduation and see the number of Meigs County students receiving their diplomas, you know their needs are being met here,” concluded Reed.
Task Force turns 5
Five years ago local agencies teamed up with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to form the Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties in an effort to better combat the drug epidemic and other crimes in the area.
While there remains work to do, the task force has made progress in the battle against drugs in the area.
The Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties is made up of authorities from the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, Gallipolis Police Department, Middleport Police Department, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office, and Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office.
Since its formation, the task force has opened hundreds of investigations leading to the seizure of an estimated $7,896,000 in illegal drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. More than 200 people have been convicted on charges stemming from task force investigations. Task force members have served nearly 250 search warrants and seized drug proceeds in the amount of approximately $400,000 in cash.
Meigs County Prosecutor James K. Stanley noted that the task force is not about sending people to prison, but saving lives and changing lives.
“It has changed their lives; it has saved their lives,” said Stanley of some of the individuals brought before the court on drug charges as a result of task force investigations.
From the time the person is first brought in to court, until they have either voluntarily or by court order completed treatment, Stanley noted the difference is evident.
Approximately 50 percent of the cases presented to the grand jury in Meigs County each month are the result of task force investigations.
The Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission assists local law enforcement agencies in combating organized crime and corrupt activities through the creation of multi-jurisdictional task forces. The commission is composed of members of the law enforcement community and is chaired by the Ohio Attorney General.
Harrisonville Lodge turns 150
In February, the Harrisonville Masonic Lodge marked a milestone.
Members of the lodge were joined by Masons from all over the state, member of The Grand Lodge of Ohio, local officials and community members to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the county’s third oldest lodge.
State Rep. Jay Edwards and Commissioner Randy Smith were among those to present recognition certificates to the lodge as part of the celebration.
In 1868 Meigs County residents J. Hendry, J.O. Clark, W.C. Hayes, J.P. Bosworth, A.P. Riggs and J.C. Golden petitioned the Grand Lodge of Ohio and was granted a charter forming Harrisonville Lodge 411.
Harrisonville Lodge 411 was founded in 1868 and is one of four lodges currently active in Meigs County — Harrisonville, Shade River, Middleport and Pomeroy/Racine.
Planning and Building for the Future
In February, the MPAC (Meigs Performing Arts Center) Foundation announces its formation as a non-profit organization.
The mission of the MPAC Foundation is to further the economic and cultural advancement of Meigs County and the Southeast Ohio region by raising funds for the construction of a state-of-the-art performing arts center, housing a proscenium stage and 460 seat auditorium, along with a community multipurpose room and catering kitchen.
The MPAC Foundation is exploring every avenue to obtain the funds necessary to construct and maintain this facility, including grants, government assistance, arts-related endowments, and corporate and private sponsorship.
To learn more or make a donation, visit the MPAC Foundation online at MPACfoundation.org, or email MPACfoundation@gmail.com.
Meigs County Community Foundation
The Meigs County Community Fund distributed its first grants earlier this year, while announcing the “Endow 200” campaign for future grant opportunities.
Jennifer Sheets, who serves as the Meigs County Community Fund President, explained, while presenting the grants, that the group recently reorganized with the help of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio to meet a broad range of needs in the county.
The goal of the fund is to allow for Meigs County people to support projects in Meigs County.
The Meigs County Community Fund Family of Funds includes: The Meigs County Community Fund; Forrest Bachtel Scholarship Fund; Chester Shade Historical Association Fund; New Haven School Fund; and The Karr-Aanestad K-9 Fund.
In addition to the established funds, Endow 200, Celebrating our Past, Building our Future, was launched in conjunction with Meigs County’s 200th birthday in 2019 to build an endowment for future grant opportunities in the county. The goal of Endow 200 is to have 200 gifts of $3,000 by 2022.
Those gifts would build an endowment of $600,000, which would allow for $24,000 in grants to be awarded annually across the areas of arts and culture, community and economic development, education, environmental stewardship and health and human services.
To learn more about the Meigs County Community Fund visit www.AppalachianOhio.org or call 740-753-1111.
Break-a-thon supports future Senior Center
Hundreds of boards were broken in November as part of the second Bitanga’s Break-a-thon to benefit the Meigs County Council on Aging.
The event — which also included a craft show, prize drawings and more — raised a total of $18,669.55, all of which will go to the Council on Aging for the renovation of the auditorium in the agency’s future home in Middleport.
“On Saturday, Nov. 3, hundreds of people came together to paint a perfect picture of the vision we all speak of. Where people of all ages had fun together and worked towards a noble cause without having to identify what makes them different from each other. In doing so they raised over $18,000,” said Bitanga’s owner Ben Nease of the event.
“This kind of connectivity is an essential element that most communities around our country are in need of today. For this reason, Bitanga’s Martial Arts Center proudly continues to support the vision,” concluded the statement from Nease.
In the days following the event, the total grew to more than $20,000, thanks to a challenge from local businesswoman Paige Cleek. Cleek challenged local businesses and individuals to contribute $100 each in order to bring the total over $20,000.
All of the funds go to the auditorium renovation at the future home of the Meigs County Council on Aging in Middleport.
Award Winning Schools
Two Meigs Local Schools were recognized in 2018 for their successes.
Meigs High School received a bronze in the 2018 rankings of “Best High Schools” by U.S. News and World Report, the only school in Gallia and Meigs Counties to be recognized.
“It’s certainly an honor for Meigs High School to be recognized as one of the best high schools in the nation. We take great pride in serving our students and community. There are many contributors who deserve credit, such as former MHS principal Mr. Steve Ohlinger, and countless teachers and students who have made this award possible. This is the result of years of rigorous and collaborative work that our students, parents, staff and administrators have put forth making Meigs High School an outstanding place to work and pursue an education,” stated Meigs High School Principal Travis Abbott of the honor.
According to the U.S. News website, the organization began by reviewing 28,813 public high schools, eliminating some based on being too small. A total of 20,548 were considered by U.S. News.
Meigs Primary School was also recognized, receiving the “Overall A Award” from the State Board of Education.
The State Board of Education of Ohio recently recognized 28 districts and 310 schools for earning an overall grade of “A” on the 2017-2018 Ohio School Report Cards.
“I feel this award is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the staff at Meigs Primary. I am blessed to have a staff that comes to work every day with the mindset of fulfilling our students’ academic, emotional and social needs,” said Meigs Primary Principal Kristin Baer.
Meigs Primary was the recipient of the Overall A Award for earning and overall grade of A on the 2017-18 school report card. The report card measures items such as student improvement, chronic absenteeism, and achievement on state testing.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.