Some local public services in Marion County are provided countywide, others more nearly match the pre-Unigov “old city” of Indianapolis, a few extend over the Unigov area (Marion County minus the excluded cities), and still others cover areas that match none of the above. Despite Unigov, the continued presence of county government, 9 townships, 11 school districts, 4 excluded cities, 16 INCLUDED TOWNS, and 6 municipal corporations means that the consolidated City of Indianapolis does not provide all local government services in Marion County. Further, some of the services delivered by the consolidated City of Indianapolis cover different portions of Marion County using additional jurisdictions known as SPECIAL SERVICE DISTRICTS and SPECIAL TAXING DISTRICTS.

The new City County building sits behind the old Marion County courthouse before the courthouse was demolished.
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

With the implementation of Unigov in 1970, police protection in Marion County was provided by the Indianapolis Police Department (which served the Police Special Service District, roughly equivalent to the pre-Unigov area of Indianapolis), by additional municipal police departments in Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport, and Speedway, and by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department (which served all other areas within the county as well as maintaining countywide corrections facilities). Some of the included towns also supplemented the Sheriff’s Department protection with their own patrols.

Around 2004, Democratic mayor Bart Peterson proposed “Indianapolis Works,” a further consolidation to streamline local government that included a combination of the city police and county sheriff departments. The idea, which had been discussed in the planning of Unigov, clearly gained traction in the ensuing years.In 2007, the Indiana General Assembly adopted legislation that allowed the Indianapolis Police Department officers and the Marion County sheriff’s deputies to merge and form the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) under the control of the sheriff, thus providing police services county-wide. In 2008, control of IMPD passed to the mayor.

Likewise, in 1970, The INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT offered fire protection within the Fire Special Service District (approximately the pre-Unigov city of Indianapolis). Separate township fire departments in the eight outer townships and the excluded cities served the remainder of the county. However, in 2007, state law allowed township fire departments to voluntarily consolidate into the Indianapolis Fire Department under the control of the mayor. All but Decatur, Pike, and Wayne townships have done so to date. All fire protection units within the county are linked by mutual aid agreements.

Emergency communications for public safety agencies are provided over the whole county by the Division of Public Safety Communications (PSC)PSC operates an enhanced- 911 service that is funded by a charge on local telephone users.

Prior to the Unigov reorganization, the Indianapolis-Marion County Parks and Recreation District was an independent municipal corporation. Today, park and recreation services are provided countywide by the Indianapolis DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION, whose activities are supported financially by a special taxing district. Some excluded cities operate and maintain their own parks and recreational facilities.

Prior to Unigov, the Mass Transportation Authority was responsible for arterial roads, the city of Indianapolis maintained streets and regulated traffic within its boundaries, some of the smaller municipalities did the same within their boundaries, the county served unincorporated areas, and the park district managed the parkways and the roadways within the parks. Today, the Indianapolis department of public works performs street maintenance and traffic flow regulation throughout the county, with some of the excluded cities still performing additional maintenance on their streets. The Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (INDYGO), a municipal corporation governed by a seven-member board of directors, provides bus service countywide. The INDIANAPOLIS AIRPORT AUTHORITY, an independent municipal corporation created before Unigov, manages airport facilities throughout the county.

In 1943 the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill to place the Indianapolis City Hospital under the supervision of a five-member bipartisan board. In 1951 the state legislature created that board’s successor, the HEALTH AND HOSPITAL CORPORATION, a separate municipal corporation that provides public health and hospital services countywide. The original Unigov bill in 1969 proposed replacing this separate government with a Department of Public Health, but legislators deleted that provision in response to strong political support for keeping the Health and Hospital Corporation separate. It operates the Marion County Public Health Department, Eskenazi Health (formerly Wishard Health Services), and the Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services (IEMS). It retains considerable independence from the rest of the Unigov structure today.

The nine township trustees provide public assistance for the poor in their respective townships, including temporary housing and clothing assistance. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and its local agency, the Marion County Department of Public Welfare, administer federal and state public assistance programs, such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Medicaid. The INDIANAPOLIS HOUSING AGENCY has administered public housing countywide since its creation in 1955. The housing authority, formerly located within the DEPARTMENT OF METROPOLITAN DEVELOPMENT, is a separate board overseen by commissioners who oversee the maintenance and management of housing for low income, elderly, and disabled persons and whose activities are supported by a property tax over a redevelopment district that corresponds to the area of the Consolidated City—the county minus the four excluded cities.

Public education in Unigov Indianapolis is more complicated. Public elementary and secondary education is provided by the INDIANAPOLIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS (a separate unit of local government with boundaries roughly coterminous with those of the pre-Unigov city of Indianapolis) and by school districts in the eight outer townships, the city of Southport, and the town of Speedway. A 1964 proposal to consolidate the school districts met with fierce political opposition, and they remain separate units of government to this day. However, in 2001, state legislation gave the Indianapolis mayor authority to charter schools outside the existing school districts, which has resulted in the growth of numerous charter schools.

In 1947 the Indianapolis Public Library District was created as a separate municipal corporation. It became the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library under Unigov and extended its library services (and taxing area) beyond the city limits. Now known as the Indianapolis Public Library (IPL), the library is overseen by a governing board and receives funds from property taxes and provides library services throughout the county.

Countywide planning, zoning, and land-use regulation are governed by the METROPOLITAN DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION and administered by the Department of Metropolitan Development. The Metropolitan Development Commission was created in the Unigov legislation and succeeded to the functions of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, which had been created in 1955. The Department of Metropolitan Development consolidated several planning and redevelopment functions and extended their territorial reach to the Consolidated City.

Garbage collection is performed in some portions of the Solid Waste Collection Special Service District (approximately the area of the Consolidated City) by city employees working for the Department of Public Works outsourced to private haulers under the supervision of the Department of Public Works. Garbage disposal is financed through the Solid Waste Disposal Special Service District and performed by private operators supervised by the Department of Public Works. One private operator manages a waste-to-energy mass-burn incinerator that generates steam for downtown buildings. Another operator manages a sanitary landfill for items not taken to the incinerator.

In 2011, the City of Indianapolis transferred its water and wastewater system to Citizens Energy Group, a nonprofit charitable trust, to maintain sanitary sewers and stormwater drains throughout the county. Some areas in the county remain without sewers.

Revised October 2021
 

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