Tony Wobler - Putnam Sentinel
Tony Wobler

LEIPSIC — Presented as their first significant hurdle of the new year, members of the Leipsic Village Council were informed of the resignation of Councilor Brian Reynolds during their meeting on Monday, Jan. 7. At that time, Mayor Kevin Benton informed council of their responsibility, a state regulation requiring the appointment of a replacement within 30 days.

“After 30 days then it becomes my responsibilty,” Benton said. “I’d prefer you see to it.”

As it turned out, council provided Benton his preference — though only just. On Monday, 29 days after Reynolds announced his departure, council declared their appointment: Tony Wobler, a name familiar to everyone who pays attention to local politics.

A small businessman, Wobler served as a member of the Putnam County Board of Elections from 2015 through the bulk of 2016, when he resigned his position to pursue an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the board of commissioners.

“Tony Wobler had been interested in being involved with the council in the past and had expressed that,” Village Administrator Justin Barnhart said. “That certainly led to council’s decision to go ahead and work with him since he’s such a dedicated public servant.”

Wobler will be sworn in to his seat at council’s next regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 18.

Council also heard Benton’s State of the Village address, an annual summary of achievements accomplished in the preceding year and, when honest, a look ahead at potential pitfalls.

Introducing his address with an expression of thanks to the community as a whole, Benton turned to the village’s successes, it’s affinity for continuing to “grow and prosper.”

“All one needs to do is take a drive down Main Street at almost any time of the day to see parking spaces full, folks going to and from local businesses and the Community Center packing guests in throughout the day,” Benton said. “While a lot of downtowns continue on the decline we have been fortunate to see people from all walks of life investing in our downtown to make it a better place to do business.”

Benton pledged the village will continue to do as he assured it has in the past, work to “help make (the village) more attractive to those that work and live here.”

New businesses have taken root and owners are working very hard to bring products and services as well as employment opportunities to those that need them. One thing I have learned is owning a small business is not for the faint of heart, it is a full time commitment.

“Last year we also were able to re-pave several streets to the tune of $150,000, half of which was paid for by a grant from OPWC,” Benton said. “Leipsic also received Tree City USA designation again and our tree maintenance program keeps damages and costs down…

“As we all know, water is vital to our survival as a community and our reservoir complex is currently being fed by the Little Yellow Creek,” Benton added. “Soon we will not only have that source, but we will also have a large pipeline from the Blanchard River in Gilboa completed as part of a multi-million dollar project. The good folks of Gilboa have worked with us during this project and in turn we will be able to provide pressurized fire hydrants to them and their township.”

Continuing on the subject of water, Benton expressed a concern about the future, a concern the village is already workign to address.

“We will have to bite the bullet soon over our source of drinkable water,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before we can no longer rely on our well system that has served us so well over the years. The raw water line that is currently under construction is a step in the right direction, but isn’t an end-all to our water concerns. With continued cooperation of local governments, County Offices and Township representatives, I see this being a much easier task than ever before.”

Benton then turned his attention to the village’s fiscal health.

“Fiscally we are in a much better place than probably any other time in the history of Leipsic,” he asserted. “Our carryover is near nine million dollars, and mostly must remain as unencumbered funds as a safety net so we do not encounter financial problems as those that faced us a few short years ago”

Benton stated the carryover will serve as a rainy day fund should the nation experience another economic recession, or if America’s embattled automotive industry should continue applying the brakes to production.

With a nod to an as yet unrealized potential for trouble, Benton redirected his address in a positive direction and discussed the village’s fire department.

“Our Fire Department has worked very hard at obtaining grants to help pay for new equipment and vehicles that we have sorely needed” Benton said, referring to roughly $500,000 in grants awarded to the Leipsic Fire Department. “Two new trucks, Self Contained Breathing Apparatus and a compressor to fill these tanks have all been obtained by the work of Fire Chief Neil Goodwin and his department. Over a half million dollars of equipment was purchased for pennies on the dollar but none of it would of happened without the due diligence of Chief Goodwin.”

Benton closed with an assurance the future of the village remains bright.

“There is going to be plenty of good coming to town in 2019,” Benton said, “and council, administration and mayor will be doing what we can to limit the effects that any bad can have. Thanks again to all residents for putting your faith in all of your elected officials.”

The next regular meeting of the Leipsic Village Council is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the village offices.