• Bill Raines

Lawrence County's Township Trustees and Advisory Boards Had Pivotal Role in Their Community

Updated: Feb 11

LAWRENCE COUNTY - (February 9, 2022) - Lawrence County's Township Trustee's and their advisory boards had a pivotal role in their communities.


(Former Perry Township Trustee Bob Phillips who is now running for Perry Township Advisory Board, Phillips resigned last month as township trustee)


In 2007, former Governor Mitch Daniels convened a commission to study local government and make recommendations for improvements. The bipartisan commission was led by former Democrat Governor Joe Kernan and former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard.


The Kernan -Shephard report characterized township government as antiquated, inefficient and advocated for its elimination through transferring duties to a county executive effectively eliminating their three member boards.


TOWNSHIP TRUSTEES


State law requires the township trustee to perform the following duties:

  1. Keeping a written record of official proceedings.

  2. Managing all township property interests.

  3. Keeping township records open for public inspection.

  4. Attending all meetings of the township legislative body.

  5. Receiving and paying out township funds.

  6. Examining and settling all accounts and demands chargeable against the township.

  7. Administering township assistance under IC 12-20 and IC 12-30-4.

  8. Performing the duties of Fence Viewer under IC 32–26.

  9. Providing and maintaining cemeteries under IC 23–14.

  10. Providing fire protection under IC 36–8, except in a township that is located in a county having a consolidated city that has consolidated the township's fire department under IC 36-3-1-6.1.

  11. Filing an annual personnel report under IC 5-11-13.

  12. Providing and maintain township parks and community centers under IC 36–10.

  13. Destroying detrimental plants, noxious weeds, and rank vegetation under IC 15-16-8.

  14. Providing insulin to the poor under IC 12-20-16.

  15. Performing other duties prescribed by statute.

Township Board


The trustee is assisted by a three-member Township Board whose members are also elected to four- year terms. Duties of the board include adopting the annual budget, serving as a board of finance and approving township contracts. In January of each year, the trustee presents to the board an annual report showing the receipts, expenditures, investments and debts of the township. The approved report is then published in local papers for public inspection.


The township trustees and their advisory boards in Indian Creek Township, Perry and Spice Valley Townships played a pivotal role in their communities.


Township officials had to make hard and complex decisions had to be made and living within the community helped make those decisions.


If a county executive or county commissioners made the decision for them, the outcome could have been much different for Fayetteville, Springville and Williams.


SPICE VALLEY TOWNSHIP


For Spice Valley Township Trustee Michelle Cornett and her advisory board, had to decide to change the fire protection contract with another fire department.


(Williams Volunteer Fire Department disbanded in June 2019, the assets of the department were given to Indian Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department)


Williams Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors failed to file proper paperwork with the state. The fire department was then removed from 911 dispatch.


Following the discovery of the matter; public meetings were held to decide if the fire department could be salvaged.


(Indian Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1972)


The fire department did not have enough manpower to perform the duties required and therefore the Spice Valley Township Trustee and Advisory board made the decision to move the fire contract for North Spice Valley Township to Indian Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department.


The Williams Volunteer Fire Department was the second volunteer fire department to dissolve since 2017 after former Guthrie Township Trustee Robert Awbrey did not renew the fire contract with Guthrie Township Volunteer Fire Department. Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department now provides fire protection to Guthrie Township.


Spice Valley Township fire protection funds are equally divided between Indian Creek Township and Huron Volunteer Fire Department even though the vast majority of the township is covered by Huron Volunteer Fire Department.


The decision ultimately had to be made in regard to public safety and the township officials had no choice but to look for other fire protection.


Please note: Spice Valley Township officials include Michelle Cornett, Trustee, Phillip Smith, Tangie Spreen and Tim Terry advisory board members. We honor the memory of Eugene Roberts who served during this period of time.


PERRY TOWNSHIP


In July of 2020, Perry Township Trustee and Advisory board joined forces with Lawrence County Independent Schools to acquire Springville Elementary School following the consolidation of several elementary schools in the North Lawrence Community School Corporation.


(Springville School)


Perry Township officials did not take that decision lightly and wanted to ensure the taxpayers of Perry Township would benefit as a whole in acquiring the school.


The decision was left up to township officials after provisions of Indiana Code 20-3-6-9 says after a school corporation no longer needs a school for educational purposes the school corporation shall offer it to the township as a gift.


A proud supporter of the Lawrence County Zephyr



Back in the 1960's Perry Township Trustee Roy Thompson worked to make sure a school existed within Perry Township. The current Springville School, which since has been remodeled since that time, was first constructed in 1963 and first classes held in 1964.


Roy Thomspon believed in education and was one of the original members of a consolidation group back in the late 1950's. Roy voted against consolidation back then and believed at the time there were a need for three high schools.


Lawrence County High Schools eventually consolidated back into one high school.


The community of Perry Township was united in acquiring the Springville School and keeping a school facility within Perry Township.


Following LCIS position to acquire the school for a charter school, North Lawrence Community Schools did not want LCIS to gain possession of the school.



Therefore, an agreement was reached between the township and North Lawrence Community agreed not to allow LCIS to use the building.


(Left to right former Perry Twp. Trustee Bob Phillips, Doug Kelley, Marilyn Kimmel, and Amy Voorhies, Perry Tpwnship Advisory Board members)


After negations between Perry Township and North Lawrence Community Schools the Perry Township Advisory Board voted to accept Springville School.


During the meeting held back in June 2021, a thunderous applause could be heard in the Life Tabernacle Family Life Center.


The community was thrilled township officials listened to them.


In July 2021, Perry Township signed over the building to the Springville Community Association who will use Springville School as school facility and community center.


Currently, Springville Academy was formed, and enrollment is being taken at this time for the 2022-2023 School year.


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In nearby Indian Creek Township, with the closure of Fayetteville School they faced the same dilemma as Perry Township.


INDIAN CREEK TOWNSHIP


The Indian Creek Township officials held a public meeting to gauge public opinion on whether they should acquire the Fayetteville School.


Indian Creek Township Trustee Gary Scherschel was not as thrilled as Perry Township Trustee Bob Phillips in acquiring the school.


(Indian Creek Township Trustee Gary Scherschel listens to the public during a public hearing on Fayetteville School)


In April 2021 Indian Creek officials voted to give the Fayetteville School to Lawrence County Independent Schools.


LCIS was then able to get the facility open by the time the 2021 school year began.


Left to right: Bruce Reeves, Justin Leach, and Diane Anderson advisory board members Indian Creek Township and Gary Scherschel Indian Creek Township Trustee



LAWRENCE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS SAY NO TO VOLUNTEER FIRE SERVICE IN ARP FUNDS AND CAREs ACT FUNDS


In October 2021, The Lawrence County Commissioners told the volunteer fire departments they could not have access to the American Rescue Funds.


Lawrence County will receive $8.8 Million in ARP funds. Lawrence County Commissioner told Jason Lewis, Fire Chief Marshall Township Volunteer Department they could not access any of the funds.


( Left to right: Lawrence County Commissioners Wally Branham, Rodney Fish, Dustin Gabhart)



Lawrence County previously received a total of $1.4 Million in CARES Act funds.


However, only one Lawrence County Volunteer fire department received $139.


Other non-profits, school corporations, Seals Ambulance Service, and Lawrence County Sheriff's Department was able to get money from the CARES Act.


There is $389,000 in CARES Act money that remains.


Lawrence County Zephyr was able to obtain emails that were exchanged between Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Valarie Luchauer and Marion Township Fire Chief Paul Gillespie. In those emails; Lawrence County EMA director Lachuaer told Marion Township they could not access the funds for SCBAs.


The request for $89,000 in funding was denied, and there were concerns other volunteer fire departments would be requesting help.


In an email, Fire Chief Gillespie was told the Commissioners decided the money will be used to pay county employees stipends.


The Lawrence County volunteer fire departments have been overwhelmed with COVID related emergency medical calls and waiting on out of county ambulance to transport patients to the hospital.


Lawrence County does not have any contractual agreements with an ambulance service to provide emergency medical coverage.


On several occasions Lawrence County has been without ambulance service, forcing the volunteer fire department to treat patients for over 30-40 minutes before an ambulance arrives.


The scenario highlights the lack of understanding of the needs of a community and how those closest to their communities can make decisions.


If township trustees and advisory boards were removed, how would these types of decisions be made?


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