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Process begins to reorganize Middletown, Fall Creek Twp.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Officials in the Middletown area have started the ball rolling to make local government more efficient.

The answer for northwestern Henry County may be less government. But not necessarily the way lawmakers in Indianapolis had imagined.

For more than a decade, the state legislature has floated the idea of doing away with Indiana townships. If the townships go away, their rural residents will still need government services. The Statehouse presumes each county government will pick up the slack.

Leaders in Fall Creek Township and Middletown want to make sure their residents have a say in their destiny.

The answer: Be proactive and team up.

Starting the process

The Fall Creek Township Board passed a resolution May 7 to create a new governmental entity by reorganizing with the Town of Middletown, which currently sits within Fall Creek Township.

According to the resolution, Fall Creek Township believes “government services can be provided more effectively and efficiently to its citizens” by formally merging with Middletown.

The Middletown Town Council accepted Fall Creek Township’s proposal June 18.

Fall Creek Township Trustee Steve Thompson explained the end result of the merger – if voters in both Middletown and Fall Creek Township approve it – would be a new Town of Middletown that covered the entire geographic area that is currently the township.

The Town of Middletown would expand its legal borders from County Road 500 West to the county line and from County Road 400 North to the county line.

Assuming the new Town of Middletown is created, current town residents will fall under the “In-town Middletown” taxing district and current township residents will be in the “Rural Middletown” taxing district.

Committee work begins

The Reorganization Committee had its first official meeting July 9.

“The two units of government are excited to dig in to the details to see what could be possible to reshape our small town through this effort,” Thompson said.

Representing the Town of Middletown were Town Council members, Jake Smith, Dick Schwalm, Dan Fountain and Donita Chambless.

Fall Creek Township was represented by Trustee Steve Thompson and Advisory Board members Kyle Hall and Cory Criswell. Also in attendance was Joel Harvey, attorney for both organizations.

Kyle Hall, President for the Fall Creek Township Advisory Board, was elected a chairman of the reorganization committee.

Hall emphasized the importance of getting input from the community in determining whether reorganization is a right fit for the Town and the Township.

The committee heard from Pete Olson, town manager for Yorktown. Olson shared his experiences about the similar reorganization process Yorktown recently completed.

Olson stressed the importance of community sub-committees.

These subcommittees may include the following key components: Parks and Recreation; Health, Safety and Welfare; Planning and Land Use; Infrastructure; Governance; Finance; and other key components the reorganization committee deems necessary.

Thompson said the reorganizing committee is still looking for community volunteers to help with the sub-committees. Specifically, they would like more input from residents with competency in Infrastructure and Finance.

Plan of action

The Reorganization Committee will meet on the second Tuesday of each month for the next eight months or so.

These meetings are for the purpose of receiving updates and guiding subcommittees. At least one member of the reorganizing committee will serve on each subcommittee.

The reorganizing committee will ultimately need to develop the plan for reorganization and perform a preliminary Fiscal Impact Study.

The current Middletown Town Council and Fall Creek Township Board must approve a completed plan to submit to Henry County for certification.

The final fiscal Impact study has to be presented to the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) at least 90 days before the 2020 primary election.

Voters will have until the election to review the plan.

If voters pass the referendum, the town council and township board will form a Transition Committee for implementation of the plan.

The next meeting of the Reorganizing Committee is 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13 in the training room of the Middletown Municipal Building, 653 Locust St.