TOWNSHIP OF BUCK CREEK — Three Republicans are vying for the ability to lead a township struggling to maintain public safety as the region rapidly develops.
The 36 square miles that make up Buck Creek Township in the west of the county include the Indianapolis Regional Airport and a stretch of the Mt. Comfort Corridor that has attracted dozens of large industrial buildings in recent years.
One of the township’s primary responsibilities is to provide fire protection and emergency medical services, which it does through the Township of Buck Creek Fire Department. The township is also responsible for pioneer cemeteries and assistance to township residents in need.
Incumbent Jack Negley takes on challengers Kenny Simmons, a longtime Hancock County resident; and Micki Simunek, who has the support of a political action committee created by the county firefighters union.
Negley, a former member of the Buck Creek Township Advisory Council, was appointed to the trustee position last year following the death of longtime trustee Melvin Branson in January 2021.
In a statement to The Daily Reporter, Negley notes that he is the only nominee to have served as a township board member, chairman of the board and township administrator.
During his tenure so far, Negley has contracted with a payroll service that he says has improved financial accuracy.
“I streamlined our budget process and reallocated the township budget to focus more on fire protection and emergency medical services,” Negley said. “These changes have allowed the fire department to better serve the citizens of Buck Creek Township.”
He added that the township also acquired a new ambulance, refitted an existing ambulance and obtained other equipment upgrades without using township taxes, but rather through fundraising efforts and Commission funds. Hancock County Redevelopment. The township continues to seek other grants and opportunities to help fund equipment and resources with the taxpayers in mind, Negley also said.
Much of Buck Creek Township is within one of Hancock County’s Tax Increase Funding Districts, which channel taxes from new developments for use by the county’s redevelopment commission. The commission can allocate tax increment funding funds for public safety purposes like the Buck Creek Township Fire Department, but only for capital needs like equipment, not for operational needs like additional firefighters.
Negley said he had developed a five-year plan to deal with the township’s economic growth.
“One of my goals is to take advantage of opportunities to adjust compensation for our career staff to stay competitive with surrounding townships,” Negley said.
Negley and his wife, now a retired Greenfield-Central Schools teacher, have raised their family in Hancock County since 1987. Their three children are graduates of Mt. Vernon High School. Negley graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and has worked in technical sales and sales management throughout his career. He has been involved in community youth basketball and recently served as president of Zion Lutheran Church and School.
Simmons, who was born and raised in Hancock County and has lived in Buck Creek Township since 1998, previously served in the county sheriff’s department and now works as the general sales manager for Stanley Chevrolet in McCordsville.
“I’m just at this point now in my life where I would like to give back to the community,” Simmons said. “I know it has given me a lot.”
He said if elected, he would work to increase the fire department’s staff to keep up with the township’s growth. Simmons described the Walmart distribution center in Plainfield that caught fire earlier this month as an “eye opener” to ensure public safety in Buck Creek Township is as prepared as possible for something similar. Walmart continues to develop a distribution center in the township that is even larger than the one in Plainfield – over 2.2 million square feet.
“I think citizens are starting to suffer now who actually live in the township,” Simmons said of all the industrial development. “I will try to help get help there for the citizens because that’s who lived there first.”
Simmons believes his background prepared him well for the role.
“I think my time in retail, my time with the sheriff’s department — I already have a good start of what we need,” he said.
He said that while there is little wiggle room for the township to get more tax revenue, he would advocate to make sure he gets the biggest piece of the pie possible.
“The township gets what it’s going to get,” he said. “But someone has to help by being in front of these people, whether it’s at the local level or at the state level.”
This also applies to county decisions that have favored all industrial development, he added.
“I just don’t know how involved the township may have been in the decision-making for some of this,” he said. “I don’t think they totally listened to all the citizens who live in the township.”
Simmons and his wife, Lisa, have a blended family of five children.
Simunek grew up in a family of firefighters on the east side of Indianapolis, with his father, grandfather, uncle, and great-uncle all serving in the profession.
“Obviously that doesn’t make me a firefighter, but what I understand is the brotherhood, the culture, some of the challenges,” she said.
Simunek’s mother was a member of the Republican precinct committee and Simunek became one after turning 18.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Indianapolis University. Simunek worked in the administration of former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith in transportation and health care. She and her husband, Tom, raised three sons who are now adults. Simunek has also worked on several Republican political campaigns in Hancock State and County, including for Governor Eric Holcomb.
“When they say, ‘All politics is local,’ the township government is as local as it gets,” she said. “Something at this level makes a lot of sense to me.”
The Hancock County Professional Firefighters Local 4787 Political Action Committee endorses her candidacy.
She said the relationships she has built with multiple levels of government in the state will help her develop solutions to the challenges Buck Creek Township faces.
“I think my passions and my interests and the timing of this office kind of came together at the same time,” Simunek said. “If you were writing a job description, that’s me; I’m perfect for that.
Simunek said if elected, she would engage firefighters in efforts to develop solutions, prioritize those solutions and adapt as needed.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here,” she said. “We have problems that people have been dealing with for a very long time and they can be solved. They will require serious work and attention.
She worries about how the fire department uses its resources outside the township, including deployments for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Simunek is also worried about Negley’s leadership. She noted at the township council meeting in February that it did not issue a 48-hour notice of meeting, as required by Indiana law. She also pointed out that the board did not meet for its organizational meeting on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January, also required by state law, nor did the board meet. convened on dates required by state law to approve an annual report and organize as a finance board.
Negley did not respond to a request for comment on those issues, but acknowledged during the meeting that he had not posted a meeting notice and that settling into the office has come with challenges.
“None of them were posted last year,” he said. “And just to be clear, we didn’t know we were supposed to. When I was made administrator… I was drinking from a fire hose.