ROSS TOWNSHIP | The two Democratic candidates for Ross Township trustee are familiar with each other.
Ross Township Trustee Joseph Shudick is being challenged by Ron Dudley, a township board member.
There are no Republican candidates for Ross Township Trustee in the primary.
Shudick has served as trustee for nearly four years. He was a Merrillville town councilman for 15 years, and Shudick also served on the Independence Hill Conservancy District's board of directors.
Shudick said there have been many accomplishments within the township under his administration, including major improvements at Hidden Lake Park, an expanded food pantry and growing ridership with a bus transportation program.
Ross Township contracts with South Lake County Community Services to provide the bus service to township residents.
Shudick said he has reduced township spending by cutting out health insurance benefits to the trustee and township board members. He also has reduced staff through attrition and retirement.
Shudick wants to renovate the social center at Hidden Lake and increase recreational opportunities there. He said the park currently offers softball and soccer leagues. Shudick wants to add a beach volleyball league there, he said.
Shudick said he also is working to create a regular newsletter to provide more information to Ross Township residents about services and programs available in the greater Merrillville area.
Dudley has served on the Ross Township Board since 2010, and he also serves on the Merrillville Fire Protection Territory board.
Dudley is a former recipient of the Indiana Township Association's township board member of the year award.
He said he was prompted to seek the trustee position because he feels his voice hasn't been heard as a board member.
Dudley said he wants to reinstate several programs Ross Township previously offered, including swimming at Hidden Lake Park and the township's Holiday Lights on the Lake.
"I don't want to go backwards," Dudley said, "I want to go forward."
Dudley says he has plans to improve the water quality at Hidden Lake.
He said geese have cause E. coli issues in the water at the park, and there are ways of keeping geese away from the water with landscaping techniques.
Prior to contracting with South Lake Community Services for a bus service in Ross Township, the township provided its own bus program for residents.
Dudley said he would have the township provide the transportation service again if he becomes trustee.
Dudley also wants to update the Social Center at Hidden Lake.