The Herald Bulletin

May 29, 2013

Anderson Township trustee meeting turns contentious

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — A disagreement between the Anderson Township trustee and her board turned contentious Wednesday night when two board members stormed out of a meeting.

Eventually, Richard Symmes and Elvis Jones returned to the meeting and apologized, but the board members made it clear they don’t approve of how Trustee Brenda Jones is running the township.

The argument stemmed from financial problems with the trustee’s budget. Property taxes are the largest single source of revenue for the office. Payments arrive in January and June. As Anderson continues to lose taxpaying residents, the office has found it harder and harder to balance the budget.

For the past several years, the trustee’s annual budget has been stable, just over $500,000. The board sets the trustee’s budget and approves all expenditures, but the trustee oversees the day-to-day administration of the office.

Elvis Jones, Symmes and board president Aaron Higgins told Jones they disagreed with her decision to appoint deputy trustee Joanna Arias, who makes $30,000 a year, according to meeting minutes. Jones said she’s allowed to appoint her own deputies, but the board countered that they should be setting the wages for the deputies. All four are Democrats.

By the end of the meeting, the four agreed on extending a line of credit with a bank to take care of operating expenses, but Symmes, who replaced deceased board member Larry Burns three months ago, said he doesn’t want to make a habit of “borrowing and paying back.”

“That’s not a good way to get ahead of this problem,” Symmes said.

The group was in agreement in one method of securing funds and reducing expenses. For some time, they’ve been working to sell the township’s office building at 1423 Central Ave. to the city of Anderson, which plans to use the lot as a bus terminal.

Jones and her office would then move to City Hall. This would reduce overhead and give the office a more efficient home space.

In the meeting, the board said city officials including Mayor Kevin Smith have been dragging their feet in the sale of the building. They agreed to make an appointment with the mayor to try to speed up the process.

Township trustees are primarily charged with providing relief for the poor, but they have other duties such as maintaining cemeteries and destroying rank vegetation.

Jones and her board members have butted heads on several issues since she was elected in 2010. In January, Jones laid off four office employees, including three caseworkers, citing financial problems.

Find Jack Molitor on Facebook and @AggieJack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.