Twenty-six Buffalo County townships, including Elm Creek, Gibbon and Shelton, will be dissolved after voters hit the polls in a close race Tuesday night — with 53 percent of the votes for dissolving the townships, and 48 percent of the votes against it.
Third District Supervisor Joe Brayton says the township form of government is obsolete, because Buffalo County maintains the roads in most of the townships, bills the township board, then gets that money returned to them.
"There was no reason to have them anymore, because the county did all the work, and the money just rotates 360 degrees," he said. "They're just obsolete, like an 8-track tape anymore. They're just not needed."
Elm Creek and Gibbon — the only townships that maintain their own roads — will have to decide what to do with their road equipment.
"The county will take over those roads, and they will have to either sell their machines or the county will take them over for them in 2015," Brayton said, "And that's what will happen to all of the townships. We will take over the debt, or if they have any money left, they'll have to return it to the county."
Another reason for the initiative was the lack of interest in the township board positions. During the 2010 election, 18 of the 26 townships had no candidates, seven had two or less, and one had three candidates.
Brayton says the Buffalo County Election Commissioner's Office had to call residents in each township during the 2010 election to try to fill those positions.
"That means nobody is interested," he said, "And I wouldn't doubt if you could go out into the country or any country road and ask them who their township board members are — I'm sure there are a lot of people that don't know."
While the passing vote won't mean that much of a change for most of the townships, residents in the small Township of Shelton, whose library and cemetery depends on tax dollars, will now have to find another way to fund them.
"We're the only township that is responsible for something besides the roads — we are responsible for the township library and for the cemetery, so it gives us a unique position" Jim Bruner, Shelton Township Clerk, said. "The people are quite concerned that the library continue to operate and is maintained and funded, as is the same with the cemetery."
It costs about $24,000 a year to keep the library running, and the cemetery would need to bring in about $10,000 a year.
The townships will be dissolved by January of 2015. Once that happens, the Buffalo County Board will take over their records and handle any unfinished business.
"We will take them completely over," Brayton said, "And continue to do the work and keep the roads in good shape."