ANDERSON — Howard County is about 294 square miles in size.

Madison County is about 452 square miles and longer than it is wide. Just ask anyone making the 40-minute drive from Markleville to Elwood.

So it’s understandable that the smaller Howard County would seem a more likely spot to consolidate government offices now

serving cities, townships and the county. A 12-member panel, comprised wisely of non-governmental members, was recently formed to evaluate consolidation. The issue was sparked, in part, by Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight who stressed efficiency in his state-of-the city address. In one speech, he said, “We’ve been losing population. But just because you have less people, it doesn’t mean running government will cost less.”

It certainly seemed logical to consolidate the even smaller town of Zionsville with its two surrounding townships, covering 52 square miles. In that voluntary agreement, six township board members and two trustees lost their jobs. Township fire was combined into one district. The merger was sparked by Indiana House Bill 1362 — the Government Modernization Act of 2006 — that encourages branches of government to seek voluntary consolidation agreements.

Such mergers of government services would seem feasible in this economy.

However, there are those who fight the abolishment of township government. They cite the size of Madison County as being too large and unwieldy; how could one county executive serve areas more than a half-hour from each other. The answer, of course, is to open satellite offices.

Consolidation opponents blame big Hoosier cities and counties for practicing nepotism in hiring and abusing salaries. They think it would be better to develop individual reforms for Indiana statutes.

But instead of wasting time in search of non-valid reasons, government leaders, including school district, should consider ways to locally eliminate government inefficiency.

A committee, similar to Howard County’s exploratory group, could easily be formed in Madison County. There are enough forward-looking, community-minded residents who would lead civil discussions on whether, for example, Pendleton, Alexandria, Elwood and Lapel could absorb services provided by surrounding townships. Such a committee could dive into service contracts to see where government bodies could share costs.

The consolidation issue has started in Indiana on a small scale. First Zionsville. Next perhaps will be Howard County. Madison County needs to join the effort.
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