Most fair weathered Sundays, my daughter and I are invited to walk over for a backyard bar-b-que with the Wilder family. We all live in Deerwood in southwest Center Grove, a very close-knit community with mature trees, gently rolling hills, pool parties, community garage sales twice a year, matching mailboxes, the Deerwood Does book club, tennis meet up every Thursday, and kids everywhere wearing soccer shoes, lacrosse pads, and – right now – prom gear.
The Wilders are a typical Center Grove family. They have a nice house, three cars, and 2.5 kids (have to count the dog, Fifa, named after the soccer association, not Eva Gabor’s Yorkie). They are involved in their community and generous. One commutes to the Circle everyday and the other works from a home office for a global company. Most weeknights and weekends are spent carpooling kids to sports and school functions.
On these lazy Sunday nights, we usually catch up on what’s going on with the kids, the schools, the neighborhood, summer plans, etc. It wasn’t a surprise when master griller, Bill Wilder, with steak still hanging on the meat fork midair asked if I’d heard about Center Grove wanting to become a town.
The surprise came when I got an email the next morning asking me if I’d heard about Center Grove wanting to become a town and if I’d be willing to write an article about public response.
My assignment, if I was willing to accept it, was to find out what my friends and fellow “Center Grovians” know and what do they think. I live and breathe Center Grove and Johnson County, so I didn’t hesitate to begin the mission.
What I found was a wide range from “great” to “don’t know” to “I couldn’t care less.” But, most often was “what will it cost?”
Since I knew they were in the know already, I decided to go back to the Wilders for a midweek across-the-table discussion.
Teresa Wilder says she’d like to have the identity as a town. “We already have it as Center Grove, but we are just not a town.” She likes the concept, but noted the reality is that taxes are a big factor. Is there a value? Bill agreed, “I like the idea in theory, depends on the taxes.”
Mark Otten is on the fence. He’s part of the many in the area who moved here for the school system but has now raised his two kids (The .5 remains, Bella, the neighborhood Golden Retriever that makes her daily rounds.). Otten considers moving to be closer to his girls and soon to be grandchildren in Fishers. “I guess I worry about the utilities most. I would have to think about it more.”
Teresa is worried about services too and industry. “It seems much of the business development has already been annexed. Center Grove would have no utilities. How much more would residents pay for water, sewer, other utilities?”
Stacie Mander, fellow soccer mom at South Central Soccer Academy (formerly Center Grove Soccer Club), who has three children and purposefully moved to Center Grove six years ago from Wisconsin after researching all schools in central Indiana says she couldn’t care less. “I haven’t heard much about it. What I want to know is what’s in it for me?”
John Widdifield and his family are invested in the area and thinks we should do it – as long as the taxes won’t go up too much. “Greenwood or Bargersville only want into the area for the money.” That was Bill’s sentiment too.
Neither Wilder wanted to lose the Center Grove identity though. “Who even knows where Bargersville is? It’s too far from Indianapolis. Center Grove has a good reputation. If we merge, we can only increase their property value.”
Bill’s final solution? “Let’s go ahead and merge with Bargersville, just change the name to Center Grove!”
Hmmm, just might have something there, Bill.
Sonya Hallett, adjunct faculty with The Fund Raising School, is a writer/editor and speaker on topics that include philanthropy, giving circles, planned giving, proposal writing, voluntarism and community involvement for many area organizations.Sonya served the Johnson County Community Foundation (JCCF) on its board of directors for ten years before becoming its president/CEO.