A three-way race for administrator of Center Township in Boone County could heat up in the coming weeks.
Casey Samson, a Center Township firefighter and Lebanese entrepreneur, filed first to fill the seat vacated by Administrator Randy Large.
Stanley Large, Randy’s uncle and retired Boone County Sheriff’s detective and private sector investigator, was the second to throw his hat in the ring, and Dennis Brannon, former Boone County Sheriff, stepped in shortly after.
The fire department is a central issue among Randy Large’s three candidates.
Randy Large, an administrator for 12 years, will not seek re-election after the Lebanon Fire Department removed the Central Township Fire Department from its list of services to automatically call for mutual aid. The Zionsville Fire Department is now called in place of the CTFD.
Lebanese officials learned last year that the CTFD failed to inspect and maintain its lifesaving equipment to National Fire Protection Agency and OSHA standards and gave Large until the 1st September to have the equipment certified. Large never provided proof of certification for the equipment to LFD. Randy Large also declined to share the recordings with The journalist from Lebanonwho then obtained them through the Indiana Public Records Access Act and found that some records were missing or non-existent.
In addition, the CTFD can no longer staff enough firefighters per shift to guarantee a three-person crew, the recommended minimum for safe operations.
As a result, the LFD removed the CTFD from its list of departments called for automatic assistance in September. The CTFD is now automatically called only for medical services and fires outside the city limits.
Last year, the LFD and city officials tried to negotiate with the CTFD to bring the latter up to national standards and ensure an adequate workforce, including renewing an offer to merge the two departments. Randy Large listened to proposals in meetings with city officials but did nothing to merge and failed to meet the terms of a memorandum of understanding with the LFD to receive calls for service again automatic.
Fire department operations make up the largest portion of the township’s budget, Samson said, adding, “The fire department has been riddled with problems dating back nearly a decade under the current administration and, frankly, we cannot risk the lives and property of our community by continuing in the same direction.
“I have unique experience and knowledge of the township’s immediate needs, and I have a plan to bring the fire department up to industry standards in months, not years,” Samson said.
Samson said he wanted to meet with LFD and city officials to improve security and restore a good working relationship between the departments.
Stanley Large, who was a member of the Center Township Advisory Board for four years and then a director for eight years ending in the 1990s, also wants to restore good relations with the LFD.
“The main problem is friction,” Stanley said. “It’s a mess. I want to open the doors so that we can all seek out what’s best for the citizens of downtown and Lebanon too…I want everyone to work well together.
Stanley said if elected he would not close any doors or make any decisions until he saw the big picture.
Brannon’s goal is also to see the CTFD “working well with all the other county departments again,” he said by email. He said he would speak with as many “firefighters, command personnel and others to discuss what needs to be done and how CTFD can begin to rebuild to the status it once held.” That being one of having excellent equipment, all the necessary training and documentations.
“It can be as simple as documenting what they have already accomplished and bringing equipment up to certification levels,” he wrote. “Just see what to do…”
Brannon also said he would focus his attention on cemeteries and making the best use of available funds to maintain properties and to open and close plots as needed.
Both Samson and Stanley Large said better communication was needed.
“I want to get back into politics,” Stanley said. “I want to go back to the trustee’s office. My intentions are to open up the office more, not just for people who need help, but to open up the office a lot more to be more accessible to the public.
“I think I’m more qualified,” Stanley said. “I know the protocol, what it is and how to make it work…I care about the trustee’s office, the Center Township Fire Department and the citizens of Center Township.”
“Communication and availability are two major points that I want to improve in the township government,” said Samson. “I want any member of the public to be able to contact me and get a response within a day, not weeks or months.”
Brannon said he would talk to other agencies and churches facing poor relief to see where the township could improve its relief practices. “I’m sure there are certain guidelines set by the state and I would like the board to step in to make sure we get the maximum use of the money allocated to try to help as much as we we can,” he wrote.
Randy Large has distributed only a small portion of the $360,340 Township Relief Fund in 2020, Samson said, adding that figures for 2021 are not yet available.
“What we saw during the pandemic was a huge need for community help, but we only spent 13% of the fund,” Samson said. Unused funds are transferred to the next year’s budget and the balance increases.
“The balance of this budget is probably the largest amount ever available to our community,” he said. “And it is clear that the need is there. It was simply not achieved.