AUDIO: Local Lawmaker's Township Consolidation Bill Scrapped

By Mike Perleberg State Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville) (Indianapolis, Ind.) - A proposal to consolidate sparsely populated townships across Indiana has died for a lack of support in the Indiana House of Representatives. House Bill 1005 would have required 300 townships with populations of fewer than 1,200 residents to merge with neighboring townships by 2023. Voters in the newly merged townships would have had to elect a new township trustee and board members. The legislation authored by State Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville) would have affected three of Ohio County’s four townships, as well as several others throughout southeastern Indiana. Ziemke pulled the bill Monday before it could come up for a vote this week. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said many Republican lawmakers from rural districts opposed the bill. Their stance hardened after the failure of an amendment to make township mergers voluntary. Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) said Monday he had concerns over how township mergers would affect emergency services. “I am for efficient government and saving money, but I am not for it at the expense of public safety,” he said. LISTEN TO EAGLE COUNTRY 99.3'S INTERVIEW WITH STATE REP. RANDY FRYE HERE. [audio mp3=""][/audio] If the audio player does not appear, click here to listen to the interview. Frye said some volunteer fire departments may quit if their identities are compromised or they are forced to negotiate new coverage contracts. Although supporters of HB 1005 claim it would save about $3 million each year across the state, Frye says volunteer fire departments are worth more than that. “If we mess it up, the cost to fund volunteer fire departments and make them combination departments where there are paid people there, it’s going to be so much more than what this is. It may be a good concept at some point, but it isn’t now,” Frye said. Supporters of consolidation believe it would have saved taxpayer money and increased government efficiency. “The motivation behind this legislation is to provide the most efficient, fiscally sound local government possible at the township level,” Ziemke said. “I have been working closely with the Indiana Township Association to come up with a bill that consolidates small township operations, but maintains the same township services and transparency Hoosiers expect.” RELATED STORIES: House Committee Passes Bill That Would Merge Townships Lawmakers Have Plan To Merge Some Townships  

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