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RG bankruptcy topped news in May

December 24, 2012
From staff reports , The Herald-Star

RG Steel ended months of speculation in May when it filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on May 30, citing more than $1 billion in liabilities.

Its parent company, Renco Group, created RG Steel after acquiring the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel operations from Russia's OA Severstal in 2011 for $1.2 billion. The company had plants in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.

RG Steel blamed Severstal for its financial problems, claiming in bankruptcy court filings that the Russian company had shorted them $82 million in working capital and that they had failed to disclose the existence of certain vendor contracts that were less-than-favorable to the company.

Without those alleged breaches, one high-ranking company official said RG Steel's liquidity problem "may have been surmountable."

Severstal denied being at fault.

Most of the company's Ohio Valley work force had already been laid off, some for several years.

In other news in May:

Vice President Joe Biden took time out from a two-day campaign swing in Eastern Ohio to try the chicken parmesan dinner at Naples Spaghetti House and buy ice cream for his staff during a stop in the area.

He also had time to shake hands and pose for photographs when he visited the Joe Staffilino Sr. home in west Steubenville.

Biden arrived late on May 16 and met the Staffilino family and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland at Naples where he spent nearly two hours greeting dinner customers.

"I have heard a lot about this restaurant from Ted Strickland. I love Italian food, and I'm hungry," Biden told co-owners Susan, Tim and Lisa Delatore.

"We are honored to have you here," replied Susan Delatore.

The Biden campaign caravan traveled to the Joe Staffilino Sr. residence, where the vice president spent approximately 35 minutes before emerging to greet neighbors and pose for photographs in their front yard across the street.

His last stop was at the Hollywood City Center Dairy Queen, where Biden bought ice cream cones and milk shakes for campaign staff members and two local residents who weren't expecting to meet the vice president.

The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville announced in May the school would pursue legal relief from the federal health care laws and will ask alumni to lobby federal representatives across the country to amend the mandate that requires insurers to offer birth control.

"Our forefathers had the wisdom to create three branches of government. That is why we are seeking relief from the judicial branch as well as the legislative branch," the Rev. Terence Terry, TOR, said during a press conference at the J.C. Williams Center.

Terry met with university faculty members and support staff to announce plans to file the lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration.

"We received very positive support from the faculty and staff as well as our alumni, our current students and their parents," Henry noted.

Henry said the HHS mandate requires employers to provide insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, as well as contraceptives and sterilization procedures.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and seeks to have the mandate declared unconstitutional and enjoin the government from enforcing the requirement.

Investigators from the state fire marshal's office are continuing to examine evidence from two fires in the early hours of May 26.

A 29-year-old Steubenville man died following a house fire at 1312 Pennsylvania Ave.

John Moore was living in the basement of the residence and was unable to escape from the burning structure.

His mother, Rose Moore, and his brother who were elsewhere in the house at the time of the fire were able to exit the house.

Jefferson County Coroner Michael Scarpone pronounced Moore dead at the scene and ordered tests to determine the cause of death.

A man who started a fire that took the life of a woman in July 2011 was sentenced to 11 years in prison on May 7 by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr.

Allen L. Briggs, 24, was indicted on charges of aggravated arson and murder in connection with the July 25 fire at 324 S. Commercial St. Donna Feustel, 60, was killed in the fire.

County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin dismissed the murder charge because of the difficulty in proving the charge. She negotiated a plea agreement with defense attorney David Vukelic for Briggs to serve the maximum 11 years on the arson charge.

Briggs said he had an altercation with Feustel's husband, Frank, and that is why he lit the house on fire.

Steubenville stepped up its campaign against lawbreakers in the wake of recent shootings and other high-profile crimes in May.

Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty joined city Manager Cathy Davison and Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin in announcing the arrests of two suspects earlier in the week and to deliver a message to those involved in breaking the law during a press conference on the steps of the City Municipal Building.

McCafferty at the time said those arrested included Darson E. Williams Jr., 37, who was indicted in February on two counts of improperly discharging a firearm into a house and single counts of felonious assault, with a firearm specification, and having a weapon as a convicted felon; and Westley Bowling, 25, of 241 S. Fifth St., who was arrested by City Police and charged with having a weapon as a convicted felon in May.

"We're working hard on the evidence, and we hope to have more (information on possible charges) in the future," said McCafferty during the press conference.

"This is the beginning of a citywide crackdown," said Hanlin. "We want to send a message that we won't tolerate this here."

"With all of us working together, two arrests have been made," said Davison, adding she had a message to deliver to those breaking the law in Steubenville. "If you break the law in our community it will not be tolerated."

An offer to improve the entrance to Beatty Park was approved by the city's parks and recreation board on May 9.

Area businessman Jody Glaub created a Beatty Park Beautification Fund last year when he served as honorary mayor for a day.

"I spent time as a kid in the South End. My wife and I walk through Beatty Park, and I think at one time or another everyone has enjoyed Beatty Park," said Glaub.

Glaub said his original $5,000 donation has been matched by other donors for a total of $15,000.

The only living member of the Last Man's Club of Weirton raised a glass of 75-year-old brandy on May 20 and silently toasted the 95 members who died before him.

"There is no joy in being the last man," said the 86-year-old Milton Fabianich.

Formed in 1956 by area servicemen who had served in World War II, the club originally had 96 members.

"To see our members pass on was tough on us. When I knew a member died, I would call the other guys and we would go down to the funeral home and talk to the family. It was sad when Johnny Moore died. It was just him and I and now it is only me," stated Fabianich.

Fabianich said the annual banquet is traditionally held in the month of May to coincide with Memorial Day.

It wasn't without some effort, both literally and figuratively, for those involved in the ground-breaking ceremony for the Toronto School District's new building in May.

More than 20 pupils, students, local dignitaries, members of the city school board and local politicians dug deep with shovels into the hard, compacted to dirt for the beginning of a dream -a new building to house sixth- through 12th-graders by August of 2013.

The circumstances leading up to the day were fraught with some speedbumps along the way, including convincing city residents to approve a bond issue to pay for the city's portion for construction. City voters overwhelmingly approved the bond issue nearly 2-1, with the Ohio School Facilities Commission picking up most of the tab for the new building. The state-of-the-art high school facility will contain new labs for science, technology for wireless Internet and meeting rooms, room-to-room broadcasting and intercom communication, as well as improved emergency communication systems.

Crews with Mansuetto Roofing of Wheeling worked for two weeks in May to replace the roof over the newer section of the Brooke County Courthouse. The $106,000 project was funded with an $80,000 grant from the West Virginia Courthouse Improvement Council and local funds. The roof on the courthouse's original section was replaced in 2009, also using an $80,000 grant from the council and local funds.

Officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation were at Garfield Elementary School on May 2 to answer questions about plans to alter the flow of traffic on state Route 7, University Boulevard and the Veterans Memorial Bridge

To reduce congestion and address safety concerns, state highway officials plan to replace the short turn lane for vehicles turning from state Route 7 onto University Boulevard with two turn lanes that would extend from an area just north of the school.

Plans call for the lanes to continue under the Norfolk-Southern Railroad Bridge and through the Brettell property at the southwest corner of the intersection and onto University Boulevard, where drivers could enter a short on-ramp to the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

New traffic signals will be installed to accommodate the changes, officials said.

Plans also call for Labelle Avenue, the access road for the Steubenville Marina, to be extended, so it would run parallel to Route 7 and to the intersection where the new turn lanes begin.

W.E. Stillson of Columbus has been hired to provide engineering designs.

ODOT has committed $7.5 million for the estimated $9.1 million project, and the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission is pursuing additional funds. Pending available funding, state highway officials hope to begin construction in 2015 or 2016.

Work began in April on the $11.4 million Crestview-Belvedere sewer project, but the county's water and sewer department held an official groundbreaking ceremony for the project on May 31 at the Belvedere Firehouse.

The county has been under a state mandate to install sewers in the community for about 20 years. The cost per household was about $20,000 to install the sewers until a group of residents and county officials began searching for grant money. The sewers will serve about 330 homes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the county $5,884,000 in loans, with a 2.75 percent interest rate, and $4,979,000 in grants. The county also was able to obtain $200,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission, $250,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission and $168,000 through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The grants and low-interest loans lowered the assessment cost to homeowners to about $6,000 each.

County Commissioner David Maple said he came into office with the project sitting on the table.

"We need to do as much as we can not to pollute and, as leaders, create infrastructure to improve the community. It is an exciting project to get done, and I know a lot of people tried to get it done," Maple said.

Rudzik Excavating of Struthers was awarded the contract for installing the sewers. The company is completing the Pottery Addition sewer project. Utility Contracting Inc. of Youngstown is building the pump stations.

Four Jefferson County police agencies were among the 190 agencies across Ohio in May that received funding from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for anti-drug programs in Ohio's schools.

The $3.8 million Drug Use Prevention Grant will help pay to keep school resource officers and D.A.R.E. officers on school grounds, DeWine said.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Department received $46,008 for resource officers in schools. Also receiving money were Steubenville, $4,346; Wells Township, $10,744; and Wintersville, $4,125.

Akron-based FirstEnergy disputed allegations that "leaks, seeps and direct discharges of toxic pollutants" from the massive Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment straddling the West Virginia and Pennsylvania state line near Chester put public and environmental health and safety at risk after the Little Blue Action Group (formerly Citizens Against Coal Ash), together with the Environmental Integrity Project and Public Justice, issued notice of their intent to sue over alleged violations of state and federal environmental regulations.

The citizen group said the impoundment had fouled Little Blue Run lake as well as groundwater supplies and the Ohio River.

Officials with FirstEnergy called the allegations "baseless," and said the company "believes they're part of a larger, ongoing campaign to discredit coal-fired power plants."

Wastes are shipped from FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield plant in Shippingport, Pa., about a 15-minute drive from Chester, to Little Blue Run via a seven-mile-long pipeline. The 1,700-acre impoundment, which includes about 700 buffer acres, isn't lined.

Ohio's general manager of energy, chemical and polymers for JobsOhio said that while it's still early in the shale oil and gas drilling process, "it looks promising."

"A lot of good things have happened in the last 12 months, it looks promising," JobsOhio's David Mustine said, citing numerous multi-million dollar investments the oil and gas industry made in the Buckeye State, including Exterran Energy's $13.2 million fabrication plant in Youngstown, which will create 103 full-time jobs and generate $3.9 million in new payroll; Chesapeake Energy partnering with M3 Midstream LLC (Momentum) and EV Energy Partners on a $900 million natural gas processing facility in Columbiana County; MarkWest spending $500 million on processing facilities in southeastern Ohio; and Halliburton's roughly $40 million investment in equipment and field service buildings in Zanesville, which he said eventually will employ 300 people. In addition, he said NiSource had committed to natural gas liquids (gathering) and processing facility and BP had made a $330 million investment in Trumbull County to extend the play further.

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