New location for town offices



Brownstown needs a new building to house its town hall and police department.

The current building at 200 W. Walnut St. was built in 1945. It is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there is inadequate space for the police department, which has grown to seven full-time officers.

The town council is interested in moving the town hall and police department into The Jackson County Banner building at 116 E. Cross St.

Now, it’s just a matter of negotiating the selling price with the building’s owner, AIM Media Indiana.

The town received an appraisal of $75,000, and AIM Media Indiana offered to sell it for $64,100.

While that may be a good price, Councilman Gary Drake suggested the town start lower, perhaps offering $60,000.

Councilwoman Sharon Koch said it couldn’t hurt to ask, and the other council members agreed.

“If we have to go to that $64,100, OK, but I feel obligated on the part of the town to try to get a better deal if we can,” Drake said during a recent council meeting. “If we can’t, then OK, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? … I think we owe it to the town to try to negotiate as good of a deal as we possibly can.”

Since council President Sally Lawson has been in talks with the owner of the building, she said she could present the lower offer and see what comes from that.

“We had quite a bit of discussion on this,” Drake said. “We definitely are interested in obtaining the property for the police station. We desperately need one. I’m not trying to put cold water on it. I definitely want it, and I’m prepared to belly up to the bar at $64,100 if we have to.

“On the other hand, if we can come in at somewhat less than that, negotiate a bit, get it a little bit better, if we can’t, we can’t, but I don’t see any harm in trying,” he said.

Councilman Mark Reynolds said since AIM Media Indiana has expressed interest in moving the newspaper office into the Ewing Depot, he didn’t want to “step on any toes,” make the owner upset and result in them not moving into the new location. In January, Brownstown/Ewing Main Street signed the deed of the depot property over to the town.

Lawson said her impression is that AIM Media Indiana is interested in keeping the office in Brownstown if it’s cost-effective.

“It shouldn’t be a matter of ticking somebody off,” Drake said. “This is business, and we’re doing business on the part of the town. … Don’t we kind of owe it to the town to try to get as good of a deal as we can?”

Koch then suggested Drake make a motion to offer $60,000. She said she wouldn’t make an offer any lower, and Reynolds agreed.

“I just think we should kind of negotiate back and forth,” Drake said. “I’ve never bought a piece of property in my life and gave what they were asking for it.”

If AIM Media Indiana decides to move into the Ewing Depot, Lawson said the town would need to offer what it would expect in rent and utilities.

After talking to AIM Media Indiana officials, Lawson said she would share the results with the council, and they could discuss it at the next meeting, set for 6 p.m. March 5 at the town hall.

During the recent meeting, the council also reviewed a couple of drawings — one of the layout of the current Banner building and one of proposed changes to the building.

If the town buys the building, the front portion would have space for the clerk-treasurer’s office and a room for town meetings, while the back part would be occupied by the police department.

Upon entering the current town hall, there is an open area for the meeting room and the clerk-treasurer’s office. In the new location, the plan is to separate the two.

Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said creating a foyer inside the entrance would allow people to walk up to a window to pay a bill or conduct other business. Behind that window would be space for two desks, and Willey’s office would be nearby in its own room.

Having a sliding walk-up window would make it more secure for those working in the clerk-treasurer’s office, Lawson said. People also often come into the office for police department-related inquiries.

The current town hall has a double-door entry, allowing people to drop off payments after hours, and Willey said that could be in the foyer of the new location.

Police Chief Tom Hanner said having a phone in the foyer would be important, too. That way, people needing assistance can use it to be connected to dispatch.

The police department would have three offices, cubicles in the squad room and an interview room.

Drake said the 5,200-square-foot Banner building would provide a lot more space than the current town hall building. Since it may be costly to renovate, he said that’s why negotiating on the selling price is even more critical.

“I would just like to see us get in there as cheap as we can because I’ve got a feeling we’re going to put quite a bit of money into that to get it up to standard,” Drake said.

The town’s street department also would have to be relocated. It’s currently on the south side of the town hall building. Lawson said the plan is to add a pole barn-type structure at the town’s wastewater department for the street department to use.

As far as the current town hall, Lawson said at one point, the Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department was interested in the building. The fire station is adjacent to the town hall.

Fire department officials had plans drawn up to expand the station to a lot it owns behind the building.

“Depending on what we wanted for, they may still be interested,” Lawson said of the town hall building. “Even if they are not, it will just be put on the market and just sell it.”

Brownstown also still is considering applying for a $500,000 Public Facilities Grant through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs for a town hall/community center/restrooms project.

The town would need to have the two vacant lots next to Heritage Park in the 100 block of East Walnut Street appraised and make an offer to the property owner.

If that’s acceptable and Brownstown is successful in landing the grant, some of the grant funds could be used to acquire the property. Then the town could hire an architect to come up with design plans for the building and have an environmental assessment completed.

At that point, the grant application process would begin. Proposals are due in May, the full application has to be in by July 20 and grants would be awarded in September.

The town hall would be in one part of the building, and the rest of it would have restrooms and the community center, which could be used for events and meetings. The senior citizens center could move from its current building at 124 S. Main St., which the town owns, to the community center.

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