After Huntertown voters approved a referendum in the May primary election to create an independent utility board to oversee town services and employees, several Huntertown Town Council members are seeking a mulligan in the November election. Those council members are ignoring the will of the people by not taking any action to put in place the approved board.
In 2011, not long after Clerk-Treasurer Dave Rudolph won his seat in an ugly election, a majority of the members of the council made the eyebrow-raising decision to create a separate utility board to oversee town employees and services. The new utility board was made up of the five members of the Town Council. The move meant that city employees report directly to the council and in effect meant that Rudolph no longer had any staff support, unlike previous clerk-treasurers.
Then Huntertown resident Jim Potter submitted a petition with 62 signatures to the Allen County Election Board asking for a referendum on the May ballot to create a new utility board. That board would not include all the council members but would have to include a professional engineer.
The referendum passed 371 to 177.
Though the successful referendum required the town to create a new utility board, instead a majority of the council backed another referendum aimed at undoing the last one.
Another petition was recently submitted to the county election board just in time for the Aug. 1 deadline to get another referendum on the November ballot. That petition – with 28 signatures, including Town Council President Jim Fortman and council members Sue Gongwer and Mike Aker – seeks to abolish the recently voter-approved Huntertown Utility Service Board.
Voters approved the utility board in May because voters wanted control for the people, said Huntertown resident Dave Garman. In my opinion, they (council members) wanted to get rid of it because they dont want to lose control of it.
The council has done nothing to put in place the utility board approved by voters.
Garman thinks council members are dragging their feet to ensure they retain control and to push forward with controversial plans to build a new sewage treatment plant.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management tentatively denied Huntertowns request to build the new $11.2 million wastewater treatment plant.
Had that been in place in July, the utility board would have been able to tell the council not to appeal the IDEM decision on the sewer plant, Garman said.
Fortman said the reason for the petition to abolish the voter-approved utility board was because they wanted to go back to the Town Council having control.
He said if the second referendum doesnt pass, the council will have two months to form a new utility board.
I spoke with people who voted for it, but a lot of them didnt really understand what they were voting for and what it would do, Fortman said.
The council had a clear duty to carry out the express wishes of their constituents.
Their delay in taking action coupled with their efforts to overturn the voters will only fuels increasing complaints from residents that the Town Council is not interested in listening to Huntertown residents.