Bargersville candidates plan for I-69, growth

An issue with community-altering impact is coming down the road towards Bargersville.

The construction of the final phase of Interstate 69 is expected to start sometime next year. The freeway will undoubtedly change the town, bringing increased growth, economic impact and traffic to an area that is already growing quickly.

How Bargersville prepares for that change is the primary concern for candidates for the town council aiming to be elected this year.

Seven candidates are vying to represent the Republican party for three at-large seats on the council in Tuesday’s primary election. Incumbents Bruce Morris, Gayle Allard and Kenneth Zumstein will face challenges from Roger Hitz, Ruth Ann Moore, Susie Qualls and James Rumell.

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Town council members serve four-year terms, and are in charge of decisions such as approving the town budget, making decisions about road improvements and managing the development of new homes and businesses.

All seven candidates are focused on the construction of I-69 through the western portion of town, which will impact all of the decisions they make. The interstate will follow the path of State Road 37 through Johnson County, with interchanges at County Road 144, near Bargersville, Smith Valley Road and County Line Road, in White River Township.

Road conditions, traffic infrastructure, sewer access and the size of the police force will also be influenced by the interstate.

Allard is a former clerk-treasurer for the town and is seeking her third term on the council. She has helped bring projects such as the wastewater treatment expansion, expanding parks and purchasing the ground for a new police station to fruition, and would like to continue working to meet the growth the area is already experiencing.

In particular, roads around Bargersville need to be addressed as more and more traffic comes to the area.

“We need to plan wisely for how we’re going to do that,” she said. “There needs to be a clear plan, and financially, we need to look at that very closely.”

Morris, a local farmer, has been a council member since 2012. Like Allard, he wanted to continue the work that he started on the council, particularly at such an important time in the town’s growth.

The council has been planning for an increased population and business base for years, and is planning on updating its comprehensive plan this summer, Morris said. He points to the council’s financial responsibility during his time as a member, with the town never having to raise taxes in order to address needs.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “The roads between Bargersville and I-69 is a concern of mine. As an interstate comes through, it can be a boon from an economic development standpoint, but the infrastructure and taxpayer, I don’t want to see them get slaughtered with the onset of big expensive roads to build as well.”

Zumstein, who has served on the council since 2012, wanted to finish work on projects he has already started. In previous terms, he had worked on preparing a 10-year financial plan for the town and utilities. That would allow the town to set better goals and have a clear understanding of its needs and the funds available moving forward.

His primary goal as a town council member has always been to keep the tax and utility rates from escalating. Proper planning will allow that to continue, and bring growth to the town.

“We want to be proactive instead of reactive,” he said. “We’re working with the county commissioners now, because (I-69) is going to impact the road system. We’re getting consultants online and anticipating our needs, seeing what funding is out there so we can anticipate that.”

Hitz is running again for a seat on the council, after he was defeated in last year’s primary election for one of the open seats. A former project manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, he has first-hand experience in planning infrastructure projects.

Serious work needs to be done before the interstate is built, he said.

“(State Road) 144 can’t handle the traffic it has now. It needs to be improved and widened, and some of the other roads too, Banta Road, Whiteland Road, Travis Road, that are being cut off need to be improved to give access back to 144,” he said. “The roads around here haven’t changed in 45 years, but the traffic has.”

Hitz would also like to see voting districts established in the town for the council, to be more representative. More sidewalks and public safety are also concerns.

Having lived in Bargersville for 43 years, Moore wanted to join the council to use her experience and knowledge of the town to lead it. She is preparing to retire as a postal carrier, and having regularly traveled on rural roads around the area, she knows how important improving roads will be as the interstate arrives.

She also wants to ensure businesses offering good jobs and supporting the town’s tax rate help balance the residential explosion Bargersville has recently experienced.

“We have lots of houses going in, which is great. But we also need more businesses to support the tax base. We need to look at ways to support that,” Moore said.

Qualls has been involved with Bargersville Main Street, the town’s parks board and other organizations in past years, and her involvement has built into a desire to run for town council. She helped found the Bargersville Farmers Market, which brought hundreds of people to downtown every week in the summer.

With her background with parks, she wants to continue adding amenities, greenspaces, trails and recreation options for the town, as well as attracting businesses to the area. But the primary focus is the arrival of I-69 and improving roads and other infrastructure as that growth arrives.

“It’s coming. What we have to do is learn to collaborate with the county, state and local government in order to make the best decisions to promote a safe outcome for all of the residents of Bargersville,” she said.

Rumell is a 26-year resident of Bargersville, has worked in commercial financing and currently in commercial property management. He has served on the town’s zoning board, police commission and the committee that worked on the town’s master plan. He has seen the town grow, particularly during the past 10 years, and has the experience to lead it as it faces even greater growth moving forward.

Increasing the police force to meet the demand of a larger town and population is imperative, he said. Attracting businesses to build up the tax base so that homeowners aren’t overwhelmed with taxes and important infrastructure can be funded will also be vital.

“You want to keep it a town that everyone is proud of, but it’s going to grow. You can’t stop that. I’m glad to see it grow, but we can grow in the right direction,” he said.

The top three vote-getters in the primary election will move on to face three Democratic challengers in November’s general election. Eric Arnold, Susan Clare Diagana and Dale W. Wright will all continue to the fall election because there are three seats available.

The winners of the three Bargersville seats will join Larry Gates and Dustin Doyle, who were elected to the council in 2018.

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Bargersville Town Council

Duties: Approving the town budget, including how many police officers the town has. Making decisions about road improvements, managing the development of new homes and businesses.

Term: 4 years

Salary: $6,595

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Name: Roger Hitz

Party: Republican

Family: Wife, Ru Ann; two adult children

Occupation: Retired, former project supervisor at the Indiana Department of Transportation

Educational background: Graduated from West Central High School in 1968; attended Vincennes University

Political experience: Candidate for State Representative, 19th District in 1972

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Kenneth Zumstein

Party: Republican

Family: Wife, Linda; two grown children

Occupation: Director of site development for J. Greg Allen and Associates

Education: Borden High School; ITT Technical Institute, associate degree in architecture; completed three years in engineering at IUPUI and attended Ball State University

Experience/background/previous office held: Bargersville Stormwater Utility Board; president of Bargersville Redevelopment Commission; member of Bargersville Town Council since 2012.

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Gayle Allard

Party: Republican

Family: Husband Mark; three grown children

Occupation: Retired

Education: Union High School

Experience/background/previous offices held: Bargersville clerk-treasurer; Johnson County clerk; Johnson County Council member; Bargersville Town Council since 2012

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Bruce Morris

Party: Republican

Family: Wife, Lori; three children

Occupation: Self-employed, owner of family farm

Education: Center Grove High School; Purdue University’s agriculture winter course

Experience/background/previous office held: Member of Bargersville Town Council since 2012.

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Susie Qualls

Party: Republican

Family: Husband Jeff; three adult children

Occupation: Registered nurse

Education: IUPUI; University of Indianapolis School of Nursing

Experience/background/previous offices held: Board president of the Bargersville Parks Board; president of Bargersville Main Street; board member of the Johnson County Community Foundation.

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Ruth Ann Moore

Party: Republican

Family: Husband Leroy; five grown children

Occupation: Postal carrier

Education: Graduate of Whiteland High School

Experience/background/previous offices held: None

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James Rumell

Party: Republican

Family: Wife Kandee, two grown children

Occupation: Real estate

Education: Graduate of Franklin Central High School; attended Greenwood aviation training academy.

Experience/background/previous offices held: Bargersville Board of Zoning Appeals, police commission, master plan committee