This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The first in 23 years

Last week the Rensselaer Republican listed a Marion Township Trustees meeting in their Calendar of upcoming events. The listing said that the public was invited to attend, and because the weather was nice and I might not get out much the rest of the week if the forecast is correct, I went, not knowing what to expect.

Talking to the three people there, I learned that the Marion Township Trustee oversees three areas. The one that has the biggest budget is the Fire Department. The Trustee takes care of some of the financial aspects of the department, such as insurance. Our Fire Department has nine vehicles--seven are owned by the Township and two by the City. The Fire Department not only serves Rensselaer and Marion Township, but also Newton and Milroy Townships, and parts of Jordan, Barkley, and Union Townships, a total of 220 square miles. It also serves the state and federal highways in those Township, so it responds to car and truck fires as well as extractions of people from vehicles that are in accidents. I am not sure how a department can report to both the city and the township, but it seems to work.

A second function of the Trustee is to provide assistance to people in financial need. In 2013 the Township spent a little over $16,000 helping households by helping with utility bills (116 households) and rent (59 households). The Township also donated $2000 to the Food Pantry; at one time the Trustee gave out food vouchers but now refers people needing food to the Food Pantry.

The third function is overseeing the Crockett Cemetery, which is the Marion Township Cemetery. (I thought I had done a post on that cemetery, and though I can find a lot of pictures I took in 2010, I cannot find a post.) It is north of the intersection of 180W and 725S. Here is one of those old pictures that apparently was not used. (Google's Blogger, which runs this site, seems to have been condensing pictures more recently because I am starting to see pixelation that I never saw before.)
 On the wall of the one of the rooms of the Trustee was a map showing the 400 possible grave sites in an addition to the cemetery that had been purchased a few years before. I do not think it had any graves when I was there three + years ago.
The Cemetery is not a big budget item. The primary expense is mowing.

A few years ago the Trustee also had a role in property assessment, but no longer. Trustees for other townships in the county (and probably the state) have similar functions. Those without fire department still have to arrange fire protection from townships that do have fire departments.

The meeting was of the Advisory Council of the Trustee. There are three members of that advisory council, and they are elected as is the Trustee. The council meets three or four times a year and approves budgets and expenditures and anything else that needs to be approved. There were proposals at the state level recently to abolish townships, and in part that proposal seems to have been prompted by corruption in some townships in large cities. If there is any corruption locally, it sure is not spent on office furnishing and decoration. The Trustee's office is the least decorated office of a public official that I have seen.

The Township has no debt but does have several hundred dollars in various funds. Some of these funds are used to make occasional large purchases, such as a fire truck. The very low interest rates that we have had since 2008 have hurt Township finances--when interest rates were higher, the interest on those funds was a important source of revenue to build up the funds. Managing the funds was important as a way of maximizing interest payments. Now with interest rates close to zero, management of funds does little or nothing. 

I noticed some blueprints on the wall and asked about them. They are preliminary blueprints for the proposed new firehouse. This project seems to be pretty definite and the city either has bought land between Tractor Supply and Kirby Risk or will soon do so. The problem with the old firehouse is more than the voids under its floor. It was not designed for the size and weight of the equipment that is now in use.
I was surprised to hear that the volunteer firemen are paid for their services. It is not much, but there is some pay involved. And I was also surprised to hear that the new firehouse in Remington is not totally finished inside. They are finishing it as they get the funds.

It was a very informal meeting and it was a lot of fun attending it. The current Marion Township Trustee has been in office for 23 years. During that time he said that no citizen has ever come to a meeting, that I was the first one in those 23 years. The Trustee's office, by the way, is in the 219 W Harrison Street Plaza next to the Looking Glass Salon. The Trustee's office hours are mornings Monday through Friday.

I hope I have not mangled anything about the meeting, the Trustee, or the Township too badly.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your report of another meeting. They're interesting. Just last week I heard of one in White County. Renting an office in trustee's home: $900/mo. An assistant is employeed and various equipment. Sounds like Marion is doing a better job. Of course, the W.C. township may have more $$ from landfill to spend here and there.

Desert Survivor said...

Very interesting post!