With stimulus funds coming, Brownstown boards express needs



As part of the American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief package, Brownstown is slated to receive $600,000.

Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said he is expecting the first half to arrive soon and the other half to come at the end of the year.

He and the town council are still trying to figure out what that money can go toward and how town departments could benefit from it.

During a recent council meeting, Brownstown Park Board President Brian Wheeler said he would like to see security lights and cameras added at the park.

He said those could help deter vandalism, most of which happens in the nighttime hours. There recently was some vandalism at the concession stand behind the softball field.

"It’s nice to have at least a camera here and there and maybe try to catch somebody," he told the council. "Overall, we don’t have the issues that a lot of parks do, but … I know some relief money (is available) for safety and security."

Also during that meeting, Police Chief Tom Hanner said he still would like to see the ninth officer position filled.

He shared statistics of the department’s call volume, traffic stops and property crimes and how those have changed from 20 years ago to 10 years ago to now.

In 2020, the department had nearly 3,000 calls, and officers made 1,400 traffic stops.

"I often say we deal with the 1% 99% of the time, but 99.5% if not higher of the people who live in Brownstown are good people. A lot of what we deal with are folks who come here," Hanner said.

"Even though call volume is going up, you can clearly look at it, almost 1,400 traffic stops last year, that’s being proactive, you’re getting out," he said. "That is a lot of traffic stops for our town, and you can see that we don’t write very many citations. You’re being seen, you’re out there and you’re doing something."

Two officers being assigned to the schools as school resource officers has generated a lot of the calls, and there also are two Drug Abuse Resistance Education officers making a difference, Hanner said.

"We know it’s working," he said. "This crew is doing more than we’ve ever done, and I’m very fortunate to have them."

In the past 20 years, Hanner said the number of theft calls dropped from 100 to 47. The criminal mischief and burglary reports have decreased, too.

"I can clearly see by looking at what our department is doing, we can only try to make that better with officer numbers and a good group like we’ve got," he said. "To continue this, we’ve got to have the officers that we can assign to where they need to be assigned. It’s just difficult not being fully staffed. I look forward to filling that (ninth) position when you all allow me to do it."

During a council meeting in May, members of the cemetery board were present for the second time this year in hopes of receiving financial support for a cemetery expansion.

In February, board member Luke Nolting told the council an expansion project has been in the works since at least 2012. As of Jan. 1 of this year, there were about five years of available cemetery spaces left, he said.

All but two of the 36 sections at the 26.5-acre 171-year-old cemetery are full or can’t be used for burials because records of existing burials do not exist, cemetery board member Jim Phillips said. Each section holds about 300 graves.

The expansion plans involve opening up an undeveloped area on the west side of the cemetery at 610 N. High St. to provide an additional 1,100 graves, Nolting said.

There has been an average of 30 to 50 burials a year at the cemetery, and the expansion would add another 25 to 30 years of life to the cemetery, he said.

The estimated price tag for the expansion, which would add about six to seven sections each containing 100 to 200 plots, is $125,000.

Nolting said the cemetery board has a $50,000 pledge to help the town offset the expansion project cost.

Since the town is no longer having to provide matching funds for a grant due to the park board deciding to not apply, Nolting asked if the council would have money available to fund the remainder of the cemetery expansion.

Councilwoman Crystal Stuckwisch asked Nolting about the cemetery board’s deadline to receive confirmation from the town.

"Obviously, the sooner, the better just because we’ve been saving this for 10 years that we need to expand," Nolting said.

"We just want the board to be aware of the need and the urgency for it because if the board turns over, then we’re going back through the whole thing again," he said. "We trust you guys will take care of it when the time allows, but at the same time, we’re going to have to start doing something with these bodies if the cemetery is full."

Goshorn said once the town receives the ARP funding and guidance on how it can be spent, they would have an answer for Nolting so the cemetery board can move forward with its expansion plans.

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