The Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of the town of Fishers’ ability to reorganize with Fall Creek Township and merge into a single city.
The decision stems from a lawsuit filed in federal court by three Fishers residents who contested a 2010 recommendation by an independent study group that would strip the right of voters to elect a mayor. Under the proposal, council members would appoint a mayor.
The Supreme Court decision allows the town to proceed with a Nov. 6 referendum in which voters will have the opportunity to choose among three options for the future of Fishers: to remain a town, to merge with the township into a so-called modern city or to become a traditional city like any other.
The study group consisting of both town and township residents recommended the modern-city structure. If approved by voters, Fishers could be classified as a modern city and would be co-governed by nine council members and a mayor.
Fishers does not have a mayor and instead has a town manager to oversee city operations. The town manager position would remain in place under the modern-city proposal, Council President Scott Faultless said in a prepared statement.
“Because the mayor would be elected within the council, the modern city plan allows the council to vest as much executive authority in the mayor as is necessary and reasonable,” he said. “The significant decisions affecting our community would be made by building consensus amongst council members, not by one person.”
Residents who brought the lawsuit opposed the reorganization plan, arguing that if voters approve the modern-city proposal, Fishers would be the only city in the state with an appointed mayor.
In their decision, justices said state law allows a municipality to reorganize into a city even though the reorganization plan provides for a city council elected at large and a city mayor appointed by the council.
Fishers officials say the reorganization plan would enable the town to save more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars by merging the township and the town.
The proposal would give all residents of Fall Creek Township the right to vote, the right to run for city council and the right to participate in all municipal boards and commissions.
According to 2010 census figures, Fishers has 76,794 residents.