Mayor Bart Peterson's controversial Indianapolis Works bill failed to pass the General Assembly after several months of hard lobbying by Peterson's office. The ambitious plan to consolidate city, county and township government was instead replaced with a significantly stripped-down version of the proposal. The merger of Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department was passed, pending the approval of the City-County Council, as well as giving the Mayor's Office budgetary power over county agencies.
But two keystones of the plan - the folding of township government into city services and the merger of all township fire departments into the Indianapolis Fire Department - did not pass. The IFD merger in particular was a heavy blow to the plan; according to the mayor's numbers, that merger would have made up more than $20 million of Indy Works' estimated $35 million annual savings.
Consolidation is still possible, but each township board would have to agree to it.
Gov. Mitch Daniels has not yet said if he would sign the bill.
"The stuff that passed wasn't our language," said Scott Chin who headed up the Indy Works project for Peterson. "The fire consolidation is, frankly, an anti-consolidation, if anything. There's literally 32 decisions that would have to be made before you could consolidate. So it's kind of a poison pill. I think what the Republican majority did was to protect the township politicians, most of whom are Republicans, over the financial concerns of the citizens of Indianapolis. Unfortunately, we are going to be engaging in cost-cutting and layoff activity. We're simply not going to have $ 35 million in savings."
In addition, the study commission proposed earlier in the session will still be formed over the summer.
"I think we're all excited to be at the table on the study commission," said Tom Marendt, Warren Township trustee and president of the Marion County Township Trustee's Association. "We believe that we have a better story to tell, and we welcome the opportunity to tell that story in an open public forum and compare what we think and believe are the right public numbers. Until someone shows to our satisfaction that something has changed, we'll be saying that the Works plan is not the best overall plan for the city and county. I think it's always good when grass-roots, locally-elected officials have a chance to have a hand in this kind of thing."