By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- One Pike County township has a population of 31. Three others have populations of less than 100.
Pike County Board member Michael Boren says it's time to talk about consolidating townships.
Boren asked the full board to consider the possibility of consolidating the four smallest townships -- Cincinnati with 31 residents, Levee with 47, Ross with 70 and Flint with 96 -- with a larger neighbor.
All four are "so-called fractional townships," smaller than standard congressional townships which measure 36 square miles, Boren said, and were established when the county's population was still growing.
Now the county's population continues to decline, making the current township plan "just a leftover of a time when Pike County had twice as many people as today, horse and buggy days when people couldn't travel far to cast a vote," Boren said. "We've consolidated farms, businesses, schools. It seems logical townships should follow suit."
The board took a step toward consolidation with a plan adopted in November to divide the county into six multi-township districts solely for assessment purposes for the 2017 election year and 2018 assessment year. The county now has 24 townships.
A township must have a population of 1,000 to stand on its own for assessment purposes, and townships with lower populations are combined into multi-township districts.
County Board member and Flint Township Supervisor Cleve Curry developed the multi-township plan with the hope townships might combine government operations over time.
Flint and Griggsville townships voted on consolidation in November 2002. Size prompted Flint to seek the merger with its neighbor to the west. The proposal passed in Griggsville, but failed narrowly in Flint.
Curry favors taking another look at merging townships.
"It's hard for townships to initiate this without a little encouragement brought on from the outside. They don't tend to want to do this unless they might be desperate," Curry said.
Possible combinations could be Griggsville and Flint, Ross and Pleasant Vale and Cincinnati with Kinderhook.
Timing will be key.
"Townships are just electing their officers this spring. They might be reluctant to want to do anything for a year or two until they get to the end of their term," Curry said.
Boren wants to see the County Board talk about the possibility, then look at getting the issue on the ballot in any affected townships.
Boren said consolidating townships could lower costs by reducing the number of township officials and election judges while potentially making it easier to fill those posts with a larger population. However, it would make a road commissioner responsible for a larger territory.
"A road commissioner really needs an assistant from time to time. It might allow a road commissioner in a larger township to hire at least some part-time help for the roads they would have to maintain," Boren said.
"It's more roads, and (road commissioners are) satisfied with taking care of what they have. It's talking them into it as the thing that should be done, rather than the fact they can stand alone and let other people worry about problems," Curry said. "It helps the smaller ones more than the larger ones."