By Wade Coggeshall
When Don Hodson was running for Washington Township trustee, he was repeatedly asked by residents why the fire department would send an engine to an incident that didn’t involve a fire, like a car wreck.
Eventually he learned it’s because dispatch often doesn’t know the extent of an emergency when it’s initially called in, so they’ll send multiple agencies as a precaution. But the question inspired Hodson to get the four major township government departments — the trustee’s office, town council, school corporation, and library — to begin meeting and teach each other what they do and why.
“I’ve always felt these entities ought to be working closer together,” Hodson said.
They began meeting last fall. State Sen. Pete Miller and State Rep. Greg Steuerwald were also attending until the General Assembly reconvened.
“We talk about projects that are coming up, concerns, different things we can do to help each other so that taxpayers are getting a better bang for their buck,” Hodson said. “It’s been very good.”
Beginning this month, a representative from each entity will give a presentation on their department. The township trustee’s office goes first. Hodson will talk about his job in a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 13 in the Washington Township Park Pavilion Center, 435 Whipple Lane. It is open to the community and attendees will be encouraged to ask questions.
“The idea is we’ll cover how our budget structure works, how we operate, what are some of the key challenges we face, what are some of our needs,” Hodson said of the presentations. “Until we walk in each other’s shoes, we don’t have a good understanding.”
One item Hodson plans on discussing is the township’s fire loan, which was increased by $1 million last year due to underfunding.
The state requires municipalities to use CAGIT (County Adjusted Gross Income Tax) revenue to cover such funds.
“The problem was our growth in the township in the last 10 years just exploded,” said Hodson, citing that as why Washington
Township grew from one fire station to three in a short time. He also plans on covering the township’s tax rates from the last three years.
“We want to be as transparent as possible,” Hodson said.
Township entity educational presentations are planned for every quarter this year. The Avon-Washington Township Public Library will present in the next quarter, followed by the Avon Community School Corporation and then the Avon Town Council.
Hodson says since he began pushing this initiative, the public has gained more knowledge in why government agencies perform their functions in certain ways.
“We’ve been aggressive in educating people why,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing this. If the township can learn about the schools, the library, and the town, we can also educate people on why they do the things they do. We’ll have a lot more voices out there telling the story of each other. We’ll also see how we can help each other further. The public will see we’re working even closer together.”
Leaders from other parts of Indiana have begun to take notice of the effort too.
“There are state reps and state senators telling their local entities to look at Avon and do the same thing,” Hodson said.
Just the facts
WHAT: Washington Township Trustee’s Office educational forum
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. March 13
WHERE: Washington Township Park Pavilion Center, 435 Whipple Lane, Avon