EDITORIAL: Plan smooth transition to end of townships

2012-08-16T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Plan smooth transition to end of townships nwitimes.com
August 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Griffith officials aren't giving up on their quest for relief from Calumet Township's heavy tax burden. Nor should they. But state lawmakers need to look at the bigger picture, not just Griffith's situation.

To advance Griffith's cause, the Town Council agreed last week to retain Barnes & Thornburg, an Indianapolis law firm with considerable lobbying expertise, for $5,000 a month over the next year.

The agreement calls for the firm to help develop legislative strategies for Griffith, including new bills or attaching amendments to existing legislation.

Griffith's continuing desire to withdraw from Calumet Township is strong enough for Indiana lawmakers to take notice.

Griffith officials have proposed a number of solutions, including trying to pay Calumet Township an exit fee to ease the transition, or being added to neighboring North Township, or even forming their own township.

The ultimate and best solution, however, would be to restructure local government to eliminate townships and transfer those responsibilities elsewhere.

In Indiana, townships typically handle emergency poor relief, cemetery maintenance, fire protection in unincorporated areas, sometimes recreational services and some other responsibilities. All of these could be transferred to another unit of government.

This isn't an indictment of all townships. Some handle this quite well. But between the township trustee and the three advisory board members, that's a lot of extra government expense even if the existing workers were transferred elsewhere.

The General Assembly should listen to Griffith officials and see the wisdom of local government reform on the scale of the Kernan-Shepard Commission's recommendations.

Let county park departments take over townships' recreational facilities. Let county highway departments maintain the township cemeteries. Figure out a similar solution for emergency poor relief.

Phase in the reforms to provide a smooth transition, making sure no services suffer as responsibilities are transferred to other units of government.

But get the ball rolling in the next legislative session. Answer Griffith's call for reform, but help others, too.

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