PDT Staff Writer
Billy Spencer, mayor of the village of Piketon, was happy Wednesday after learning that his fight against locating Physician’s Pharmacy in Piketon had been won. The operator had been evicted, and the building and the land returned to the owners. Spencer is no stranger to a fight.
When Spencer took office as mayor of Piketon on Jan. 1, 2004, he received an instant greeting to the job from state authorities.
“I got elected, and even before I took office in January the state called me and said, ’you know you’re in financial problems and we need to do a fiscal analysis on you. Would you write us a letter asking for that fiscal analysis?’” Spencer said.
He did write that letter and as a result of the fiscal analysis the village of Piketon was placed in fiscal emergency status on July 8, 2004.
“I pretty well had to come to grips with it almost immediately,” Spencer said.
Fast forward to Oct. 15, 2009. A big load is lifted off the shoulders of the residents of Piketon when the fiscal emergency status is terminated. And, as if that is not enough, Piketon remains in the black.
Spencer credits the attitude of the citizens of the community, hard work, tough decisions, and determination with the turn-around.
“We’ve had to do some work financially,” Spencer said. “They had to put on a 1 percent income tax. There was no way we could cut our way out of it. And believe me, we cut a lot. But the hole was so deep we couldn’t cut our way out of it, so between cuts and raising revenues a little bit with the income tax, that is what we did.”
Interestingly enough, the village has not raised utility rates in the 10 years he has been mayor and the water and sewer funds are solid.
“We don’t waste anything, but we get a lot of work done,” Spencer said. “And I think the people that live here know that. We pave streets. We’ve got new water towers. We make upgrades. We’ve got new police cruisers. We’ve got backhoes, new dump trucks. We’ve worked hard. We have.”
There is a standing joke that Spencer should annex some surrounding communities. While he reacts to that notion with a chuckle, the truth is, annexing has been a part of the village’s success story.
“I got some resistance on this, but Council supported me,” Spencer said. “If you’re outside the village and you want our utilities, we actually wrote an ordinance that said the conditions of that happening is that you annex. So we’ve had some successful annexations. Out there at Shyville and at Beavercreek (Ohio 32), out there where the credit union and all that sits. We annexed all of that into the town. There sits the credit union now with 60 good jobs there. That all helps. Putting your utilities outside your area, once we looked into it, it was a money losing deal.”
There is still work to be done, but Spencer has a goal he hopes to reach before leaving office.
“When I leave office, whenever that is, I want people to be able to say, ‘I live in Piketon,’ and I want them to be proud to say that. This is where I live. We’re raising our granddaughter, and this is where she goes to school, and I’m just one example of over 2,000 people who live here. And we have turned it around.” Spencer said.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.