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Fishers Debates If Law Prohibits Reconsidering Merger

The Hamilton County town of Fishers is poised to merge with one of the townships it occupies following the election, thanks in part to a quirk in state law.

Fishers town hall

Photo: Justin Harter (Flickr)

Fishers has been growing in population and now appears poised to control governmental operations in a larger area.

Voters in both a town and township must approve mergers by referendum. Since you can‘t vote twice, the law assigns the vote of someone who lives in both the township and the town to the unit covering the larger geographic area.

In most cases, that would be the township. But Fishers straddles Fall Creek and Delaware Townships, and the total area is just larger than Fall Creek. That means residents already in Fishers will wield the most votes in determining township approval. Wayne Crane with the group Citizens for Reorganizing Fishers says the merger is an obvious step.

“Think of, I’ve got two plants a mile apart. They both make the same product, neither one is operating at full capacity, and they serve the same constituency. Call them customers. Why would you keep both plants open,” Crane asks.

The Fall Creek Township Advisory Board approved the merger in December 2010 — about two weeks before a newly elected anti-merger majority took office. The new board voted to rescind approval, but the Hamilton County Election Board says there is no legal authority to do so.

That means the referendum will appear on the November ballot unless a judge intervenes. Attorney Anne Poindexter, who represents a township resident opposing the merger, argues the conclusion that the township can‘t rescind its support for the merger goes against Indiana Supreme Court guidance on local government power.

“The act need not specify each and every minute authority, but it is liberal construction — broad powers, liberally construed, which has to include the power to rescind,” she says.

Township board member Doug Allman, a merger opponent, predicts the dominance of the Fishers voting bloc will bring approval. He argues legislators intended to protect unincorporated areas from being swallowed up against their will.

On a 2 to 1 vote, the election board ruled its job is to enforce the law as written, not speculate on what the General Assembly intended.

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