What is a Township?

A township, in the United States, is a small geographical area. Townships range in size from 6-54 square miles, with 36 square miles being the norm. According to the 2010 census, Edwardsville Township has a total area of 53.99 square miles, of which 35.25 square miles is land and 0.74 square miles is water.

There are three different types of townships in the United States: a survey township, a civil township and a charter township. The responsibilities and the form of the township government is specified by the state legislature. Of the 102 counties of the state of Illinois, 84 are organized into civil townships, usually referred to as simply “townships” in state law, including Edwardsville Township.

A civil township is a unit of local government, often rural, and are geographic and political subdivisions of a county. Civil townships have an elected board of trustees and supervisors (for the State of Illinois, each township is governed by an elected board, which consists of a supervisor plus four trustees). Some have additional offices such as clerk and assessor, which may also be elected. Edwardsville Township is composed of a Township Supervisor, four Trustees, a Township Assessor, a Township Clerk, and a Township Highway Commissioner, all of whom are elected.

The operation of Townships in Illinois is established by the Township Code (60 ILCS 1).

60 ILCS 1/85-13 enumerates general services that townships are allowed to spend money on: public safety (including law enforcement, fire protection, and building code enforcement); environmental protection (including sewage disposal, sanitation, and pollution abatement); public transportation (including transit systems, para-transit systems, and streets and roads); health; recreation; libraries; social services for the poor and aged; and the development and retention of business, industrial, manufacturing, and tourist facilities within the township.

Other parts of 60 ILCS 1 authorize townships to provide cemeteries, comfort stations, community buildings, hospitals, monuments, open spaces, parks, facilities for the developmentally disabled, and disposal of brush and leaves. After approval by a referendum, a township may also provide water and sewer services and general waste collection.

Township government has been a part of Illinois for more than 160 years and provides valuable services and programs to the community.  Each township in the State of Illinois varies on the services they provide and activities they perform. The most common governmental responsibilities of townships include oversight of such things as road maintenance, land use planning, and general assistance, which Edwardsville Township does provide.