Berhalter embarks on new challenge

FOR THE second time in three months I have been a guest at the swearing in of a new Belmont County judge.

Chris Berhalter turned in his county prosecutor’s suit for the Northern Division Court bench Monday. He fills the post left vacant when Judge Frank Fregiato was sworn in as Belmont County Common Pleas judge this summer.

Berhalter was sworn in by Common Pleas Judge John Solovan as well as Judge Fregiato, who served at Northern Court for 16 years.

“I’m am very honored and humbled for the opportunity to continue to serve the good people of Belmont County and work to try and make a difference in our community,” said Berhalter. “I realize I have a lot of work ahead of me to maintain the high standards of integrity that the judges have had who came before me,” said Berhalter.

Berhalter drew strong praise from the judges who delivered his oath.

“Chris went to school with my son-in-law. He is a fine person who will be a fine judge,” Judge Solovan noted.

Judge Fregiato, meanwhile, said, “Chris has high integrity, a great work ethic and a great legal mind. He will be a super judge.”


BELMONT COUNTY Commissioner Chuck Probst raised some eyebrows Friday by announcing his plans to retire this week. He is doing so to preserve his retirement package.

The Martins Ferry High graduate, however, is seeking reappointment to the post. The Democratic Party Central Committee will make that decision.

Probst appears no slam-dunk, however, to return to his commission seat. Two former county commissioners already have stepped forward expressing their interest for the appointment. Mark Thomas and Mike Bianconi have both tossed their hat in the ring and both loom as viable threats to Probst.

A third candidate has been mentioned. Shadyside’s Gregg Warren, currently a Wheeling Hospital executive, is being urged by some Dems to seek the seat. Warren is a former Shadyside Village Council president and Mead Township trustee.

A future Belmont County Commission candidate may have just moved in from Marshall County. Bridgeport native Brian Schambach was a Marshall County commissioner and just relinquished his post after re-marryng and relocating to St. Clairsville.

It’s nice to have options, and the the Democratic Party Central Committee has some quality ones.


MARTINS FERRY Police Chief John McFarland was the featured speaker the Purple City’s monthly chamber of commerce luncheon Tuesday. The former Purple Riders’ football great outlined a new drug-free initiative.

It is called the Drug Free Club, and modeled after one that has been met with great success in the Ohio County schools system.

The project will be fueled by giving perks to those students who opt to remain drug free. If local businesses become partners with the Drug Free Club, they may help with the reward systems, such as offering reduced meal prices. Schools may offer extra credit towards a class or test or a pass on one day of conditioning if the student plays a sport.

McFarland plans to launch the program in Belmont County schools this coming school year. He hopes to eventually implement it in every Belmont County school district, which encompasses 3,000 high school students.

McFarland’s plan drew overwhelmingly support from the chamber.

In other chamber action, the recent Night at the races was termed a major successes. The chamber is also promoting Small Business Saturday, scheduled for Nov. 30.

A report was also given on this coming week’s Christmas in the Park, which promises to be a spectacular event.


A NOTED author is returning home for a pair of book signings.

Liz (Roth) Lipperman grew up in Bridgeport, graduated St. John Central and Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing.

She is sister-in-law of prep football coaching legend John Magistro. Her sister, Dorothy Bennett, still lives in Bellaire.

Liz married her high school sweetheart (Dan Lipperman). They lived mostly in Texas during his military service, as well as Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. After a long career in nursing, she opted to go back to school (Bachelor’s degree in Professional Arts.)

“I chose creative writing as an elective, and the professor mentioned that I should consider a career in fiction writing. And the rest is history. I spent many years thinking I was a romance writer, getting rejected more times than I can remember,” Lipperman said. “In retrospect, all the dead bodies and guns/explosions should have given me a clue that I was really a mystery/suspense writer, but it took getting an agent for me to realize that.

“I am represented by Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency located in Morgantown. I signed with her in 2006 and sold my first series (Clueless Cook Mysteries on proposal) to Berkley Prime Crime in 2009,” she continued. “My first book, LIVER LET DIE, debuted in October of 2011, and I now have seven more out there, with number eight being released on Dec. 3.

Her book titles are:

  • Liver Let Die: Book 1 Clueless Cook Mysteries;
  • Beef Stolen-Off: Book 2 Clueless Cook Mysteries;
  • Murder for the Halibut: Book 3 Clueless Cook Mysteries;
  • Mortal Deception: a Romantic Mystery;
  • Shattered: a Romantic Suspense;
  • Heard it through the Grapevine : A Dead Sister Talking Series;
  • Chicken Caccia-Killer: book 4 Clueless Cook Mystery coming Dec. 3;
  • Jailhouse Glock: A Dead Sister Talking Series coming in May 2014

Her book signings are:

  • Sunday, Dec. 15, Books-A-Million Ohio Valley Mall, St. Clairsville, 1-4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 15, Books-A-Million The Highlands, Triadelphia, 5-8 p.m.


ST. CLAIRSVILLE Schools Superintendent Walt Skaggs is taking some undue heat. Lowe’s recently donated 130 buckets with safety items to the school district. A letter to the editor last week accused Skaggs of not passing out the buckets to the classrooms. The writer did not do her homework. Skaggs informed me the buckets were distributed immediately and remain in place. Skaggs does an expert job of running the hilltop school system, he doesn’t deserve taking cheap and inaccurate shots.

MOTORISTS IN the Ohio Valley were looking at a wide-range of gasoline prices this past week. In Bellaire, regular octane could be bought for many days at $2.82. Those same days in Martins Ferry the lowest price was $3.19.

JIM ROGERS announced his retirement Monday after 22 years as head coach of the Cameron High football program. Rogers led the Dragons to much success during his tenure, and he did it with class every step of the way. The coaching profession will miss him.

A STORY in last Sunday’s business section featured Behind The Seams Alterations in Bridgeport. The phone number was omitted. It is 740-633-3009.

JOHN F. Kennedy saturated the news all week. I received a call from a 1957 St. John Central graduate Saturday. He recalled that in his senior year at SJC that JFK, then a Massachusetts senator, made a speaking stop in the St. John’s church basement after a parade through the All-American Town.

ONE OF my favorite lunching spots is celebrating sixth month in business with specials set for Monday and Tuesday. Tito’s Sloppy Doggs is located at 2202 National Road in Elm Grove. Tito’s offers every type of hot dog you can image plus much more. Tito is owned and operated by Chris Burress. He son, Arjay, just concluded a 1,000-yard rushing season for Martins Ferry.

Kapral may be reached at