Local engineer offers to help with projects in Brownstown


Having lived in Jackson County his whole life, Brad Isaacs said he pays attention to what’s going on.

After he read about a funding opportunity for Brownstown, he decided to reach out to the town council to encourage its members to pursue it.

In 2016, a $1.15 million obesity prevention grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was awarded to Jackson and Lawrence counties since they had the highest obesity rates in the state.

Kris Darlage Meyer, healthy community champion for the grant and an educator with Purdue Extension Jackson County, is encouraging local officials to turn in their proposals.

Applications must be submitted by July 1, and projects have to be completed, photographed and reported by late August. The two-year grant runs out in October.

The money is available to the two counties on a first-come, first-served basis.

It’s up to the Brownstown Town Council to determine estimated costs and submit proposals for a chance to receive money to cover materials needed for projects.

“We certainly have to throw a flag when we get opportunities for funding to come along to help our community,” Isaacs told the town council earlier this month. “I certainly want to encourage you guys as the leader of Brownstown to pursue that.”

Isaacs extended his assistance to the town with his 20 years of experience as a project engineer and project supervisor for the Columbus office of Janssen & Spaans Engineering.

“Times have fallen upon us that are rough,” he said. “You’ve got to go looking for this money. You’ve got to get your name in the hat before you’re even considered. A lot of small communities are making the mistake of not getting their name in the hat. We’ve got a good group of people (on the council). I want to make sure we get our name in the hat for this community. It’s not always free money.”

In early March, Mark Fenton, a public health, planning and transportation consultant from Massachusetts, was invited by the Healthy Jackson County coalition to spend a couple of days discussing possible sidewalk and crosswalk improvements in Brownstown, Crothersville and Seymour.

In Brownstown, one area of focus is crosswalks around Brownstown Central Middle School. Police Chief Tom Hanner, who is on the town’s Safe Routes to School committee, said he would like curb extensions, painted crosswalks and signage on Walnut Street. The crosswalks could be painted by students as a way to get them involved.

Hanner also said he would like to slow traffic down on Bloomington Road on the other side of the middle school. He said some motorists, mostly from out of town, use that road as a shortcut to avoid the stoplights on U.S. 50.

One option includes building up an area with a crosswalk and landscaping so traffic has to slow down.

The portions of Walnut Street and Bloomington Road near the school are school zones with 20 mph speed limits.

Councilman Gregg Goshorn, who also is on the Safe Routes to School committee, said he is in favor of submitting an application for the proposed projects around the middle school.

“I’m definitely excited to have additional avenues to get more (funding) because we are definitely limited on what we can do with this and there are certain regulations, so if there’s any more help that we can have, we would appreciate that,” he said.

Town officials also want to have safe walking and biking pathways from the middle school to the high school and from the downtown to the schools.

“I walked those roads myself as a middle-schooler. Unfortunately, they have not been improved a whole lot since,” Isaacs said. “There are needs here. You drive around town … we’re probably 15 or 20 years behind a lot of other communities.”

At the same time, though, he said some things in town are 15 or 20 years ahead of other communities. For examples, the schools have made interior and exterior improvements in recent years, including the ongoing work at the high school.

“Let’s get our name in the hat and try to get some of this money for this community that so desperately needs it,” he said. “They are certainly taking this obesity thing and pointing it toward the future generations. It’s up to us to make sure that we grasp those opportunities as a community and put the wheels in motion.”

The Safe Routes to School committee also is working on trying to get another way in and out of the elementary school. Currently, the only road available is Base Road. The group has its eye on connecting Base Road to Steinkamp Street in the Lucas-Ackerman housing addition.

Isaacs praised the group for pursuing that idea.

“Wonderful kudos to you guys for recognizing that immediately,” he said. “No. 2, you’ve already got a preliminary idea. No. 3, let’s get the wheels turning. Let’s embrace this, let’s work together and show the town that we can do so and let’s increase and improve our thoroughfare system.”

Goshorn said another idea is a biking or walking path and a crosswalk along Elm Street near the high school. That area gets congested during Friday night home football games, and kids often walk across the street to play at Lutheran Central School.

“I’m over there every game day, and I’m scared to death a kid is going to get run over,” Councilman Mark Reynolds said, adding he has gone out and stopped traffic to let kids cross the road.

Council members discussed potentially putting up barricades on Elm Street on game days, but emergency vehicles would have to have access in and out of the area.

They said they would meet with school officials to see if traffic plans are changing near the high school with the new football field and parking lot being constructed.