1999 bittersweet year for County

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2000

Plant closings, crime, loss of some special friends and traffic tie-ups mixed with new beginnings, a couple of homecomings, a 150th birthday and an almost-state championship to make 1999 a year of mixed blessings for Lawrence County.

Saturday, January 01, 2000

Plant closings, crime, loss of some special friends and traffic tie-ups mixed with new beginnings, a couple of homecomings, a 150th birthday and an almost-state championship to make 1999 a year of mixed blessings for Lawrence County.

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Here, by month, are some of the stories that made news in the county during the last year of the last decade of the 20th century.

The first six months of 1999 appear today, with the review of the last six planned for Monday’s edition of The Ironton Tribune.


– Ironton received word of a $400,000 state grant that was earmarked for downtown revitalization, including new sidewalks for Second Street and funds for renovating storefronts.

– Firefighters battled wind chill below freezing as they fought a fire that destroyed Johnny-on-the-Spot Industrial Sanitation in Ironton, as well as a fire that claimed the home of a Perry Township family.

– Ironton School District announced plans to renovate Ironton High’s football stadium.

– Then-Ironton superintendent Jim Payne announced that he would be leaving his post to take the Dawson-Bryant job after then-superintendent Don Washburn announced he would be moving to Pilasco-Ross.

– Proctorville village officials heard a request from Tony Fulks to consider annexation of several businesses and other property near the foot of the 31st Street Bridge.

– Ohio University Southern Campus dean Dr. Bill Dingus was honored by Leadership Tri-State with the Community Service Award, given to local residents who have made a significant impact on the development of their communities.

– Lawrence County educators announced plans to turn the Lawrence County Airpark into an airplane career center offering students the chance to get hands-on training in aviation careers while they were still in high school. A private, non-profit organization now operates the program.

– Officials began talking about what they would do with the $93 million that would be coming to the Ironton-Huntington area because of its designation as an Empowerment Zone. The designation allowed the area to apply for funding to not only improve infrastructure, but for workforce training and industrial development as well.

– Frontiervision removed WLWT-Channel 5 in Cincinnati from the Ironton area cable lineup causing many protests from consumers. Frontiervision eventually offered viewers the choice – a local billing office or WLWT. The community chose the Ohio station, which was the only state news source on the cable system.

– A late night fire claimed the life of 83-year-old South Point resident William Stapleton. A grease fire was believed to have caused the blaze. It was the first fatal fire in the village in more than a decade.

– South Point officials began to look at the problem of coal dust in their area.

– South Point approached Marathon Ashland officials about moving a proposed path for a pipeline that would carry petroleum products through the village.

– Ironton Fraternal Order of the Eagles Aerie 895 took the government to court to protest the revokation of its license for allowing some gambling on its premises while serving alcohol. The non-profit organization claimed other groups were allowed to maintain gambling practices and serve alcohol. The group also claimed the gambling was between members and for fundraising for good works in the community and should be exempt from the rule.

– Ohio Department of Transportation officials started looking at the Ironton-Russell Bridge and how to replace the span after its scheduled demolition in 2003.

– Ironton residents gathered in the City Center to kick off the city’s 150th anniversary, with special presentations, food and fun. 1999 would be marked with many special events to mark the sesquicentennial year.

– The Lawrence County commissioners hired a director of human services and special projects for the county at a salary of $40,000 per year. The commission hired Leslie York for post. York was later replaced by Dick Lang.


– Ironton Business Association members elected J.D. Carey and Lou Pyles as co-presidents of the organization.

– AlliedSignal officials announced that 45 plant employees – almost half the workforce – would lose their jobs by April as a result of the sale of the company’s Ironton plant to Reilly Industries.

– Chesapeake School District voters narrowly approved a levy that would provide $2.4 million in matching funds to access more than $14.2 million in state funds for school building construction and renovation as provided through the Ohio School Building Assistance program.

– A Youngstown fireworks company sued David Pruitt, who operated the Ohio River Fireworks store in Scottown – the scene of the July 3, 1996, explosion that killed nine people. The suit alleged that Pruitt never repaid a real estate debt, bringing the ownership of the store into question.

– Federal officials announced that they would buy – and demolish – 48 homes in Rome Township to get them out of a flood plain area.

– Roy Harmon, an eighth-grader from Symmes Valley, earned honors as the county’s top speller in the 1999 Lawrence County Spelling Bee. His winning word was "fibrous." He represented the county schools in the Tri-State Spelling Bee.

– Former Lawrence County sheriff Dan Hieronimus was named project planner/executive director of the new Community Based Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace, a minimum security facility.

– Longtime Ohio Highway Patrol dispatcher Norma Hughes of South Point announced her retirement after more than 30 years behind the radio.

– Amanda Harper spelled the word "tonic" to become the spelling champion for the Ironton School District. She went on to represent her school district in the Tri-State Spelling Bee. Subhash Kadim represented St. Lawrence Elementary-St. Joseph School in the Tri-State bee.

– Ironton residents christened a portion of South Ninth Street – the area between Maple Street and Park Avenue – as Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

– Briggs Lawrence County Library board members approved $102,871 in computer equipment for the main library and branches.

– A 15-year-old Rock Hill High School student was taken into custody after he told investigators that he brought a semi-automatic weapon to school and officers found a note threatening another student’s parents in his locker. The student later recanted his confession. He was later sentenced to time in the Dennis Boll Group and Shelter Home and expelled for a year from Rock Hill High.

– Resource Inc. of Indiana filed an application with the Ohio Department of Mental Health to operate a treatment program at the Ohio Center for Youth.

– County officials evacuated 20 Aid Township residents from their homes after a farm pond’s earthen dam threatened to collapse on a hill above Paddle Creek.

– R. Scott Bleeks was named the new plant manager at the Intermet-Ironton Iron plant. The plant’s parent company announced in December that the facility would be closing in 2000.

– River Valley Health System and Ohio University Southern Campus unveiled plans for a 20,000-square-foot steel building that would house a fitness center, including basketball courts and exercise equipment as well as other offerings to be used by the university and the community. The second phase of the project would have added another 20,000 square feet. Bids for the project were expected sometime in April.

– Judge Linton Lewis, who first heard the case brought by some 600 Ohio schools claiming the state’s method of funding schools was unconstitutional, found that the state’s remedies as directed by the Ohio Supreme Court had not alleviated the problems.


– Ironton city administrative representatives and union employees ended nearly three months of negotiations by signing a new, three-year contract that gave union members increased wages and benefits.

–  An afternoon meeting with FrontierVision officials led to the possibility of the return of Channel 5 to the cable lineup when city officials announced they would withhold permission for the company to complete its sale to Adelphia Communications until the channel was returned.

– It came in quietly, with a sneeze here, a cough there - and before the Tri-State knew what had happened, a flu season turned into an epidemic, filling hospital beds and emergency room with ill patients.

–  A new Ironton Fire Department station moved one step closer to construction after a meeting with the city’s architectural firm, Cole Russell and Associates, during which the new site design plans began the final phases of completion.

– Ohio University Southern Campus announced it would begin more than $3 million in improvements, focusing on renovations to the existing structures as well as a new technology center.

– Freedom Baptist church celebrated the end of debt when an anonymous benefactor donated $50,000 to cover expenses incurred in 1992 when the church built its new sanctuary on County Road in Kitts Hill.

– Afternoon blazes robbed two Lawrence County families of their homes and belongings despite firefighters’ best efforts at battling the back-to-back flames. Firefighters barely had recovered from the first battle, which destroyed the home of Brian Wheeler, 2483 County Road 61, Kitts Hill, when a second blaze destroyed the home of David Pennington, 3486 County Road 30.

– Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense presented their opening arguments in the trial of Leon Aliff, the Huntington, W.Va., man accused of murdering his estranged wife, Linda, in Lawrence County last year. Aliff was convicted of aggravated murder.

– Ironton Police Department officials began investigating the source of counterfeit money passed in a city pharmacy.

– South Point High School varsity cheerleaders captured the Ohio State Cheerleading Championship title.

– With her 2-year-old daughter, Kyia, in her arms, Joyce Byrd jumped from a second-story window to escape the afternoon fire that destroyed her Burlington home.

– After weeks of visiting area schools, collecting donations from area civic organizations and purchasing items on their own, a group of Ohio University Southern Campus Los Amigos members traveled to Mexico and donated school supplies to children.

– Chesapeake Board of Education members voted to allow open enrollment, which would allow schoolchildren from the neighboring districts of South Point, Symmes Valley, Fairland and Rock Hill to attend Chesapeake schools.

– Cabletron Systems Inc. broke financial promises and destroyed 300 jobs, leaving the city without $35,000 in income tax revenue and $28,500 in water, sewer and fire fees when it announced it would begin outsourcing the manufacturing previously done in Ironton.

– Lawrence County commissioners and Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical System representatives broke ground for a new ambulance facility in Chesapeake.

– Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary announced he would veto any council vote that lent support to FrontierVision’s impending sale with Adelphia Communications unless the company agreed to offer the city Channel 5 as well as more local payment options.


– Leon Aliff, the Huntington, W.Va., man convicted of the aggravated murder of his estranged wife in Lawrence County, announced he would appeal the conviction.

– At 618 S. Eighth St., a 6-year-old boy with a cigarette lighter accidentally set fire to a bedroom in the home, causing smoke and fire damage, Ironton Fire Department officials said.

– Faced with certain job loss in just two months, Cabeltron workers began seeking alternatives and options for employment through local services such as the Job Training Partnership Act office and the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services.

– A blasting project on U.S. 52 continued to seriously delay traffic, causing motorists and police concern about hurried drivers, distractions and increased accidents indirectly related to the Ohio Department of Transportation project.

– Marathon-Ashland Petroleum officials offered a compromise package that included annexation of the more than 600 acres of property at the former South Point Ethanol Plant if village officials would consent to allowing a petroleum-products pipeline to run beneath the village. Possible dangers from the proposed pipeline project gave many South Point residents reason to voice their concern at a village council meeting where company officials assured village council members the dangers were minimal.

– Ironton Police Department officials began a manhunt for a suspect wanted in connection with an attempted carjacking that occurred in the Tipton’s Foodland parking lot.

– Ironton city officials closed Woodland Cemetery’s pre-1900s bridge to traffic pending much-needed repairs. The closure was due to safety reasons and the bridge will not reopen until the repairs are made, officials said.

– Cabletron officials gave county and local officials the OK to begin marketing the building to prospective buyers and interested businesses when they signed an agreement allowing tours of the building.

–  Chad McKnight, 18, of Private Drive 2560 Kitts Hill, pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of complicity to robbery in connection with a Jan. 16 incident in Tipton’s Foodland in which a woman’s purse was taken from her.

– Jason Julian, 18, of Township Road 192 West, Proctorville, was arrested and charged with menacing for threatening to bring a firearm to school and shoot 15 people, county sheriff’s reports said.

– A Columbus police officer arrested a Hall Funeral Home employee after he left a corpse unattended in the parking lot of a strip club. James Harber, 204 Wilgus St., Proctorville, was transporting the body to the funeral home in Wooster when he stopped at The Candy Store, a topless bar located at 333 Georgesville Road.

– Perry Township officials announced they would protest any action taken by South Point Village council to attempt to annex property from the 600-acre South Point Ethanol Plant from the township into the village.

– Lawrence County Board of Commissioners approved a 911 expenditure of more than $6,000 which allowed county dispatching services to purchase a new radio system.


– Portsmouth area officials reached a conditional agreement with Sunoco Inc. to build a coke plant in Haverhill at the Norfolk and Southern property. Scioto County officials received a letter asking for certain infrastructure needs to be met before the company would decide to locate in the area.

– South Point Council members agreed to allow Marathon Ashland Petroleum to run a portion of their 130-mile pipeline project beneath the village. As part of the agreement, South Point would annex the former South Point Ethanol Plant property located in Perry Township.

– Production temporarily halted at AlliedSignal Inc. after a fire in a tank filled with 160,000 gallons of naphthalene.

– After a one-year suspension, Fairland Board of Education members voted 4-1 to reinstate Jack Harris as high school girls’ basketball and boys’ football coach for the 1999-2000 school year. Harris was suspended from the position at a July 1998 board meeting pending further investigation after allegations were mad that he behaved improperly at an end-of-the-school-year party the previous year.

– Fourth District Court of Appeals judges affirmed the 1997 murder-manslaughter convictions of Jack and Mona Volgares. The conviction will stand – Volgares murdered his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Seleana Gamble, when he shoved her down a hallway, and Mrs. Volgares did not render medical assistance, which led to her death.

– Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department received a $375,000 grant to hire five new road deputies.

– A surveying error gave Fairland Schools almost $700,000 more to spend to improve the district’s elementary and middle schools. Fairland received about $27 million in state funding after voters approved a 4.01-mill bond levy, which will provide $4 million in local funding for the construction of a new high school, and the remodeling and renovations to the current high school, middle school and elementary school.

– Jeweler Tom Allyn was named 1999 Ironmaster honoree.

– Ironton City Council members chose to support FrontierVision’s imminent sale to Adelphia Communications in exchange for the cable company bringing back WLWT Channel 5 out of Cincinnati. The city lost a local Ironton cable office in the exchange, however.

– Twister, a 27-year-old American Quarter Horse, made his final trip along the Memorial Day parade route. Twister represented the fallen soldier, an annual feature in the city’s march.


– Ironton city officials announced city streets would receive more than $540,000 in funding for paving in the largest such project the city had ever embarked upon.

– Kent Jeffers, 38, a Chesapeake Village Council member, volunteer and former police officer, was found dead in his Chesapeake home, which sparked a police investigation.

– A chemical tanker truck hauling acid overturned on Ohio 7, just north of Proctorville, disrupting traffic for more than 12 hours.

– Fire destroyed two abandoned homes in Chesapeake and caused one firefighter to suffer from heat exhaustion.

– Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary announced the city would seek to hire its own industrial recruiter to bring jobs and industry back into the city.

- Rock Hill Board of Education members began negotiating a land swap with Wayne National Forest officials that would add about 37 acres to the proposed construction site for the district’s new elementary school. Officials said the swap would provide more room and better, safer access to the school.

– A regional heat wave drove residents indoors and into swimming pools as temperatures soared near the 100s for more than a week.

- An announcement that Pillsbury Co. of Jackson wanted 200 more employees prompted county commissioners to help Lawrence County residents get the jobs and to ask the company to expand locally.

- Ironton City Council members continued to plan for the hard hits expected when the revenue losses from Cabletron’s closure affected the city budget.

- City and county police officials discovered the body of a young male on Township Road 179 outside of Ironton City Limits and launched an investigation into the man’s identity and the cause of his death.

– Lawrence County commissioners opened discussions of possible solutions to county jail overcrowding problems, including the possibility of a new regional or local facility.

- Christopher Sherrick, 502 S. Eighth St., Ironton, was arraigned in Ironton Municipal Court and charged with felonious assault and aggravated murder in the death of a young male found in a ditch just outside city limits. He later pleaded not guilty to charges of felonious assault and aggravated murder in connection with the death of Melvin Gause of Detroit, Mich.

– Cabletron employees said goodbye to fellow workers as the manufacturing facility began the first in a series of layoffs that would lead to the plant’s ultimate closure.

- Local and state law enforcement officials launched an early-morning, county-wide sweep that landed 18 drug-related arrests.

- Despite federal funding of more than $540,000 for paving onsystem roads in Ironton, residents expressed to city officials they would rather see the brick streets repaired.

- Drought conditions across the county dried up wells and withered local farmers’ crops.

- Descendants of Ironmaster Hiram Campbell, one of Ironton’s founders, were honored at a church service at First Presbyterian. The family came to see a window their great-great-great uncle had commissioned in honor of his brother.

- Law enforcement officials and fire department officials continued a search for an unidentified person who was thrown from a pleasure craft after it collided with a tow boat in the Ohio River near the 31st Street Bridge.