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$207M Mega Millions lottery winners happy, but waiting

Dec 17, 2008, 3:13 pm

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Mega Millions

A city streets department employee from Piqua, Ohio, confirmed he is one of the winners of a $207 million Mega Millions jackpot and said that all but one of the winning ticket holders are also city employees.

"When the time's right, we'll come forward," the Piqua man said on Sunday, Dec. 14.

He spoke on condition that his name and age not be published yet, citing a desire not to upstage his fellow winners. 16 people have a stake in the winnings; 14 are from the streets department.

The man said he had no plans to quit his job, despite potentially collecting more than $10 million.

Piqua attorney John E. "Jack" Hemm, who represents all of the winners, said the city too will benefit from income tax on the winnings.

"It's a very exciting thing for these people," he said. "These are just regular working folks.... All of a sudden their lives have changed, their spouses' lives have changed and their children's lives have changed."

The Piqua man said he and other winners of the drawing played regularly, chipping in $1 each on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The man said he and the others have already made their decision on whether they will collect a lump sum payment of $143 million or annual payments over the next 26 years.

But he declined to say which option they picked.

The winners have 180 days to claim their prize.

The Miami County city of 20,600 buzzed all weekend about who the winners might be.

"It's got everybody talking," said Paul Gutmann, a retired attorney, while stopping by the Apple Tree Gallery in downtown Piqua with his wife, Rosemary.

One person joked, "I guess it wasn't you because you're still at work," recalled Rick Robinson, a 40-year employee at Barclay's, a downtown clothing store.

News of the jackpot making multimillionaires of several locals comes less than two months after the Fort Piqua Plaza, a hulking structure towering over the downtown that for decades had been in disrepair, reopened after a $20 million renovation.

Like that restored landmark, the jackpot's winners have given residents of a city beset by decades of economic decline another point of pride.

"It puts Piqua on the map," Robinson said. "People are excited and joyous that, at this time of year, this could happen to people they know."

Kroger's Piqua store said it will donate to local charities the $100,000 it received for selling the winning ticket.

That pleased Rosemary Gutmann.

"At this time of year, what could be better and more appropriate?" she said.

Winners show up for work

Mayor Thomas Hudson thinks there soon will be openings in the street department, although all showed up for work Monday.

They were jubilant, but some had mixed emotions, he said.

"They were excited, but some said it hadn't sunk in yet and that trying to decide how to handle everything was causing a lot of anxiety," Enderle said. "I met with everyone and told them to take a couple of days off to think about what they want to do."

Enderle wouldn't identify the workers, who have asked to remain anonymous for now.

He said some had said they wanted to come back to work.

"If they want to move on, we understand that too," he said.

Piqua, a city of 20,500 residents about 25 miles north of Dayton, has 20 employees in its street department, but Enderle said other workers could be switched on a temporary basis to any positions that come open until permanent replacements were found.

He declined to identify the departments where the other two winners work, saying it would be more difficult to maintain their anonymity.

"I just don't know what to expect until folks tell me what they want to do," he said.

The employees have been pooling their money for about five years, although not everyone participated in every drawing, Enderle said.

"I'm sure everyone was happy for the group, but some folks probably will have to deal with feelings of being left behind because they didn't put money in that one," he said.

At least some of the winners have contacted a lawyer.

Attorney John Hemm said he started receiving phone calls from several of the winners soon after he heard the winning ticket was sold in Piqua. They will need to decide how to claim the ticket and have their financial arrangements in order before going to the Ohio Lottery Commission, he said.

"These people need information," said Hemm, who is trying to get a team together to help the winners with their planning.

Hemm said he hopes to know by mid- to late-week when and if the winners will comment publicly.

Some winners set up a trust to claim jackpots while keeping their identities from being disclosed.

Lottery spokeswoman Sandra Neal said the winner must decide whether to accept a one-time cash payoff of $142.7 million or take $207 million in 26 annual payments of $7.9 million.

"If it's a group, they all have to agree on the type of payment," she said.

The winning numbers were 10, 16, 19, 27 and 48, with the Mega Ball being 25.

The winning ticket was sold at a Kroger supermarket, where store officials said the $100,000 received from the lottery for selling the winning ticket will be donated to local charities.

The record jackpot for the Mega Millions game was $390 million in March 2007 with winners in Georgia and New Jersey, Neal said.

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