Township Government Grassroot Government At It’s Best

(BEDFORD) – The township trustees throughout Lawrence County met with residents, who ask questions about their functions and services.

The meeting took place at the First Baptist Church in Bedford, which several residents throughout Lawrence County attended.
Reno Bates who serves on Shawswick Township Advisory stated, “I ran for the advisory board, in the neighborhood where I was raised, and the poor that needed assistance, that only a township could have provided.”
Lawrence County Smallest Township explains the importance of keeping township government: Township trustees main functions center around Poor Relief, Fire Protection, and Cemetery Care.
Michelle Porter serves as Lawrence County’s smallest township who says that township trustees know their residents and their needs. “I know my people, who live out in my township; I do not make them come to my office. I go to them, and this helps me familiarize myself better with their needs. Although, some township does, have set hours, and limit when they can access the office. I consider my job, a 365, and 24-hour job. When a person had their water shut off in the middle of the night, I worked and had their water back on the next morning. There was a small child involved, and I wanted to make sure that the child was not in that situation.”
“In other situations, if there was a fire, I could get the articles of clothing that some other organizations could not cover due to rules or regulations, and I was able to provide that to them. The talk of consolidation of township trustees would work just about as well as it did when schools consolidated. Township trustees work with less pay, no benefits, and at less cost than, if county government would have taken over the township trustee functions,” Porter added.
Bono Township was one of the 300 townships the state tried to eliminate back in 2018. In 2019, under House Bill 1650 wanted to abolish advisory boards, with no oversight by an advisory board.
“Could you have imagined what a disaster, that bill would have been if it passed. The bill was killed in the house on a vote of (75-18)” according to Debbie Driskell of Indiana Township Association.
“Township Government is grassroots at its best,” said Porter.
Township trustees work with various other organizations in the county that provide multiple services that need assistance. Whether it be clothing, financial, or shelter needs. The St. Vincent DePaul Society has been an excellent resource for the trustees. Ellen Sowders, Dolly Sowders and Rosemary Stanley from St. Vincent DePaul Society attended Thursday’s meeting.
Kernan-Shephard Report wanted the township government to be abolished. Back on July 18, 2007, then, Governor Mitch Daniels named Former Governor Joe Kernan and Supreme Court Justice Randall Shephard to co-chair a commission on local government reorganization. The Kernan-Shephard report ultimately called for the townships to dissolve.
The report issued in December of 2007 and titled ” Streamlining Local Government,” the commission recommended 27 changes, ranging from child welfare funding to reorganization of school districts. Other than assessor changes, no significant consolidation or reorganization reforms resulted from the report.
The current duties of township government, the report suggested would be reassigned to the county executive in part to eliminate township trustees.
“Townships often are too small, in terms of land area and population, to provide cost-effective public services. The problem becomes pronounced with increasing administrative, staffing training and equipment requirements, particularly fire protection.”
The report continued, ” We believe that Indiana counties are large enough to allow economies of scale in services but so large enough to allow economies of scale in services but not so large that they preclude sufficient access and responsiveness for citizens.”
The commission recommended that a county executive could set up districts for fire protection and that a countywide levy for poor relief established. Fire protection and poor relief remain in control of township trustees in incorporated areas of the state.
“The issue with the Kernan- Shephard report is that only large municipalities were included. Representatives from small local government were not included in the meetings around the state,” Debbie Driskell of Indiana Township Association. ” It was not a study; we hired Indiana University to look closely at the report and make recommendations, after looking at the report it was not a scientific study.”
According to Driskell the cost of providing the services would not be as efficient, or personal as township trustees provide. There is no cost savings to transferring, the township duties to the state.
“I was only paid $6,000 to perform assessing duties when I became township assessor,” said Pleasant Run Township Trustee Michael Nicholson. “They would like us to centralize and standardize township government.”
Other Services and Veteran Assistance:
Brad Bough, Local Veteran Services Officer state if a township is unable to provide services for a veteran due to restrictions.
“They can contact the County Veterans office, and we can provide services such as funerals, grave markers, or other types of assistance.,” Bough added.
The Veterans Office number is 812-275-6411.
Dan Wade says, if someone under the age of 18 who is needed help with cliff pallet, burns, or other medical issues, the township offices works with Shriners and help them get the required medical assistance. And this is no cost to the family.
“Sometimes you must stand up for your people,” Jones added. “And if someone, needs your help, you have been elected to be their voice. Even we have to deal with the opioid crisis, that sometimes these people, whenever they get out of jail, have no place to stay, we have had to try to find places for them to go. This year, working with the men’s warming center was a huge help to the township trustee offices. And more than 43 men were served at the shelter this year,” according to Millard Jones Shawswick Township.
Township Trustees include:

  • Michelle Porter – Bono Township
  • Stacie Ratliff – Guthrie Township
  • Gary Scherschel – Indian Creek Township
  • Barbra Hall – Marion Township
  • Susan Evans – Marshall Township
  • Bob Phillips – Perry Township
  • Michael Nicholson- Pleasant Run Township
  • Millard Jones – Shawswick Township
  • Michelle Cornett – Spice Valley Township
  • Susan Evans has served for a total of 22 years as Marshall Township Trustee