Another 4-way race for township

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BUCK CREEK TOWNSHIP – Three Republicans and a Democrat are competing for the three seats on an advisory board representing a quickly growing part of Hancock County.

Erin Harsin-Jordan, Matthew Kelly and Scott Whitehouse will be on the GOP side of the ballot for Buck Creek Township Advisory Board after topping John Martin’s vote total in the primary. Marian Hensley is running as a Democrat.

Buck Creek Township is in the middle of Hancock County’s west side and has drawn multiple large developments over the last several years, most of which for distribution and logistics purposes. The board advises the township trustee, who leads township government and its functions, including providing fire protection and emergency medical services, maintaining pioneer cemeteries and providing financial assistance to township residents in need.

Matthew Kelly

Republicans caucused Kelly onto the board to fill a vacancy earlier this year. He is a Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy, formerly served as treasurer for the department’s reserve deputies and has also worked as a 911 dispatcher and a chef.

Kelly and his wife have lived in the township for 17 years.

“And in that time we’ve just seen the area just develop and blow up,” he said. “And I’m in public safety now, so I see it every day out on the road, and I work with the firefighters basically daily.”

The township’s public safety services are struggling to keep up with all the growth, Kelly continued. If re-elected, one of his goals is increasing pay for firefighters. He also wants to grow their ranks, including for code enforcement to keep tabs on all of the new buildings. Staying on top of equipment needs is another priority.

“And that’s just the fire side,” he said. “The cemeteries have dramatically changed in the last couple years,” he continued before praising township trustee Jack Negley’s cleanup efforts.

Eventually the township will need to start focusing on green space and parks, Kelly said.

“Because we have nothing, and as these townships keep growing and these housing additions come in, especially south of (Interstate) 70, people are going to want that type of thing,” he said.

Kelly is proud of the work he and his colleagues have done on the township’s finances, noting the raise for firefighters next year after struggles last year nearly resulted in a pay cut for them.

“The budget looks better than it has,” he said. “We’ve made progress. We’ve just got to do better. Every year we’ve got to do a little better. Every meeting we’ve got to do a little bit better than we have in the past. As long as we keep doing that, we’ll be alright.”

Erin Harsin-Jordan

Harsin-Jordan served a term on the board that ended in 2018 and was a firefighter for 18 years, part of which for Buck Creek Township. Before the primary election this spring, the McCordsville Elementary School nurse told the Daily Reporter her biggest goal if elected would be to add more firefighters to the staff to help keep up with all the development in the township.

“We are in desperate need of manpower,” she said. “That’s probably going to be a combination of career and part-time.”

It’s going to require careful planning, she continued.

“There needs to be a long-term plan for everything,” she said. “For hiring, for raises, for covering gear that is expiring, looking at overall what we have, what we don’t have and establish a five- to 10-year plan of what the needs are.”

Harsin-Jordan said she’d also advocate for the fire department to benefit more from the county’s special taxing district that encompasses much of the township and includes numerous industrial developments.

“I think there needs to be more communication with all the warehouses being put in,” she said before recalling the fire that tore through a Walmart fulfillment center in Plainfield earlier this year. “It wouldn’t take much for that to happen here, and we’re far less prepared for something like that to happen. I don’t know how educated people building these huge warehouses are as far as fire protection. I feel that’s a conversation that needs to be had as well.”

Scott Whitehouse

Whitehouse was also caucused onto the board within the past year. He and his wife have lived in the community for decades and raised their three sons there. He owns and operates an automotive repair business, has a master’s degree in business and 23 years of management experience, including for Ford Motor Co. and Keihin Corporation, now Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd.

“I was used to managing people, and supervising people, and more importantly — managing budgets,” he told the Daily Reporter during primary campaign season.

He’s also concerned about the rapid development in the township, as well as tax breaks for those developments. He’d like to find a way for companies to pitch in more for public safety.

“We’re going to have to be pretty creative and figure it out,” he said. “…I would like to add the manpower as quickly as possible and yet stay in the black with the budget, if it’s at all possible — that’s my main goal. Those new businesses are going to add significant calls to the fire stations and the manpower’s going to be needed. I don’t want to be reactive to that, I’d rather be proactive and get the guys trained up, get who we need and yet somehow we’ve got to maintain financial responsibility.”

Hensley did not return requests for comment.