To municipalities of various sizes, the Ohio River is home. Numerous cities, towns, villages, and hamlets occupy the banks of the 981 miles (1579 km) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois – but this post is about only one of them.
Neville, Ohio is a rural village along the Mighty Ohio in the southern part of my county (Clermont). Other than driving through it several times over the past 40 years, my history with Neville is nil. Founded in 1808 by Gen. Presley Neville, a Revolutionary War veteran. The US government established a post office there in Neville 10 years later – which is still operating today.
From the war memorial, to store names, to officials, certain families have dominated its history – but that’s normal in a small town. By 1880, Neville’s commercial district was vibrant as the population grew to 445.
Being along the Ohio River, Neville has battled its share of floods – especially the major floods of 1913, 1919, 1937, 1964, and 1997. The ‘97 flood the caused more than half of the population to move because, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bought land and demolished buildings so nobody would build again on those locations.
As a village, Neville depended on funding assistance from the Ohio’s Local Government Fund. In 2010, in order to balance the state’s budget, our newly elected governor slashed the fund’s existence. Besides saving the state money, the survival-of-the-fittest approach would force local governments to either streamline their expenditures to become part of the surrounding township or merge with another municipality.
In the last 10 years, about 10 governments have dissolved – the majority since the 2011. Ohio Auditor’s office gave Neville’s mayor a choice: vote to dissolve or eventually face a court-ordered dissolution.
Today, Neville’s population of 100 has a median income of about $31,000. No businesses exist within its boundaries … and the state of Ohio has a budget surplus. This past March 15th, voters in three more villages across Ohio faced the dissolution decision on the ballot.
Somerville (Butler County) will close its doors, but Smithfield (Jefferson County) and Neville thumbed their noses at the state in order to live another day – at least until the next dissolution vote.