AMERICAN ELECTRIC Power is being painted as the bad guy in Ormet Corp.'s battle for survival.
Such is not the case.
I had three AEP officials in my office Monday. The trio enlightened me greatly on how the electric rate issue is actually playing out. Ormet is AEP's largest customer. It uses as much electricity as does the city of Pittsburgh.
Tom Froehle, AEP Ohio's vice president of external affairs, was one of those I played host to. He notes that it would be foolhardy if AEP wanted to see its biggest customer go under.
"AEP definitely doesn't want to see Ormet go out of business. We know what impact that would have," Froehle said. "Nearly, 1,000 jobs would be lost, the local economy and school district would also be adversely affected. It is a very emotional issue."
What Ormet workers and AEP customers may not realize is that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) sets the electric rates. The rate decision is out of AEP's hands.
PUCO began its Ormet hearings Tuesday with the expected passionate testimony being presented by the Ormet camp. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown went to bat Wednesday for Ormet, stressing the importance it plays into the local economy.
While the testimony has ended, don't look for any quick decision. PUCO may not issue that until October.
In our Monday summit, Froehle pointed out that the discount Ormet is seeking exceeds its salary and wages for a year. He added that since the current rate agreement went into effect in 2009, Ormet has realized a discount in its electricity rates of $230 million.
PUCO is composed of five appointees. They are well-educated individuals, including some attorneys and an ex-judge. That being the case, I hope that at least three of them are smart enough to understand the need for Ormet to survive.
IF PUCO fails to give Ormet a rate break, the plant will more than likely go belly up. Nearly a 1,000 good jobs will be lost, the local economy and the Switzerland of Ohio School District will take big hits and the general public will have to deal with higher electric bills.
I am biased in my thinking, but it should be a no-brainer for PUCO to assist Ormet.
WEDNESDAY'S BELMONT County commissioners' meeting painted a bright picture on the current growth and development that is beginning to take root. Commissioners authorized the hiring of several new employees for the sheriff's office and sanitary sewer district. The jail is loaded up with inmates, which translates into a nice cash windfall for county coffers. Gas and oil money will continue to fuel more and more Eastern Ohio development.
MARTINS FERRY High?School is planning to hold Alumni Band Night on Friday, Sept. 13 at the Purple Riders' football game against Linsly. However, more ex-band members are needed to make that come to fruition. Former Martins Ferry High band members who would like to participate in this year's Alumni Band performance should call Dorothea ASAP at 740-317-4377
COLLEGE FOOTBALL has commenced. Two predictions: Texas A&M autographing star Johnny Manziel will not repeat as Heisman Trophy winner. His massive off-season baggage will impact his on-the-field play. Ohio State's schedule is ideal for a national championship. Look for the Buckeyes to beat Stanford in the title tilt in the Rose Bowl.
LOCAL ATTORNEY Mike Shaheen recently unveiled plans for a potential development project in the heart of the Bridgeport businesses district. It is on the site of the fatal March fire which still sits in rubble. I love his proposal. Putting some type of eatery on the ground floor with nice, affordable housing upstairs would be a great facelift for National Road while also providing a couple of needed commodities to Bridgeport. I hope his plans come to fruition. If it doesn't pan out in Bridgeport, we would definitely love such a project in downtown Bellaire.
CONGRATULATIONS GO out to Shadyside High head volleyball coach Joel Joseph, after he guided his fledgling Lady Tigers' program to its initial win Tuesday. It's a challenging task starting a new high school program. Joseph has worked meticulously to lay a strong foundation and it appears his efforts are beginning to pay dividends.
THE OVAC may have to ponder implementing instant replay in football after Harrison Central's controversial loss to Wheeling Central Thursday night. The win could have been a season-maker for the Huskies.
WE WISH the best to retiring Belmont County Treasurer Joe Gaudio. Friday marked his last day in office after serving in that capacity for a quarter of a century. Many people may forget that Joe was one of the all-time great prep running backs in his days at Buckeye South. Joe performed his duties as treasurer with great efficiency, accountability and class.
KUDOS TO John Magistro. The former Bellaire High grid coaching legend kicked off a new campaign at Westerville Central in quality fashion Friday night. The St. John Central grad saw his charges post a a 29-7 win over always formidable Columbus DeSales.
I?HATE to see the Buckeye 8 begin to crumble. I thought it was the ideal prep conference. With?Bellaire and Union?Local scheduled to leave, new members are needed. I hear East Liverpool and Beaver Local are interested in joining. Such geography may not be fair to?Martins Ferry and St.?Clairsville.
I WOULD like to thank all those who attended the memorial Mass Wednesday at Martins Ferry's St. Mary's for Rich "Hoot" Gibson.
Kapral may be reached at email@example.com