Changes could be coming to Allen County government structure

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana lawmakers have passed a referendum that will put the creation of a Single County Executive in Allen County on the ballot in November. On Monday, the Allen County Election Board will be deciding the wording on the ballot for November.

Lawmakers said this referendum has been in the works around the statehouse for nearly 20 years, but it finally passed this last session. The specific legislation was stated for a county that has between 300 and 400,000 people, so Allen County was the only county that fit in the guidelines of the law. Some current and former lawmakers said they believe the legislation never passed before because this is the only version that left the decision to the public.

The creation of a single county executive would replace the current three commissioners in Allen County with one person. It would also expand the number of county council representatives from seven to nine. The county level would then function similar to the city level with a mayor and a city council or the state level with a governor and the legislature. Currently, the commissioners have control over the executive and legislative responsibilities of the county while county council primarily handles fiscal decisions. With the change, legislative decisions would be transferred back to the council. Supporters said there will be faster responses if just one person is in charge because three people won’t have to come to a general consensus and agree. Opponents of the referendum said the current structure of government is more representative and provides greater checks and balances. However, some people said that’s not necessarily the case.

“When you talk to the business community, they think there could be more streamlining,” State Representative Martin Carbaugh (R-81) said. “I think for residents you get more connection to people making the laws. As nine districts, you’re only going to have some 40,000 people you represent.”

Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters said there are around 400 counties nationwide that operate under this system. He also said if the referendum is voted through in November, people wouldn’t vote on the person who would fill the executive position until the 2018 election. That person would then take office on January 1, 2019.

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