Brownstown police, town making plans for eclipse

BROWNSTOWN — The Brownstown Police Department has started to put some plans in place to deal with the anticipated traffic issues related to the April 8 total solar eclipse.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking the sun’s face. The sky will become dark, as if it were dawn or dusk, for people viewing a total eclipse from locations where the moon’s shadow covers the sun entirely. These locations are on the path of totality. A good portion of southern Indiana, including Brownstown and Jackson County, are on the path of totality.

The total eclipse will start here at 3:07 p.m. and continue for 3:08, while there will be a partial eclipse from 1:49 to 4:23 p.m. here.

It’s estimated the county’s population might swell to three or four times the 46,000 or so people who live here.

There are several viewing sites in Seymour, and the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Brownstown is offering 240 RV/tent sites.

While there are no activities scheduled for April 8 in Brownstown at this time, Police Chief Tom Hanner talked with the town council members during their meeting Monday at the town hall about the police department’s plans for the event, which includes April 7 to 9.

He said he plans to have all eight of the department’s officers for traffic control on April 8 after the eclipse is over. That includes the three school resource officers, who will not have duties since Brownstown Central Community School Corp. has made it an eLearning day for students.

Hanner said there’s one main issue police have had to deal with whenever big events happen in the area, such as a bad wreck, a fuel spill or the fair.

“We have to keep commercial vehicles on the main roads,” he said. “The town’s not set up with side streets to handle them. We want to keep the intersections clear. We don’t want folks blocking the intersections.”

That means police might need some extra help, such as the town’s three street department employees, to stop people in commercial vehicles from taking side streets, Hanner said. He said commercial drivers tend to knock down lines, cut corners and take out signs.

“It’s nothing that they intend to do,” he said. “We need to avoid that and keep them on the main road.”

Hanner said the Indiana Department of Transportation has provided the police department with the key to override the town’s two stoplights if needed, but that probably won’t be needed.

“If we’re that congested, we don’t have anywhere to send them,” he said.

In an answer to a question about Skyline Drive in the Jackson-Washington State Forest from Councilman Tim Robinson, Hanner said it would be closed that day.

Shawn Ross, who is the street department superintendent, said he and his two co-workers have no problems with helping out.

The town hall will not be open that day, so Clerk-Treasurer Sonya Nale and her clerk, Cathy Roberts, also plan to make themselves available to help police with anything they might need to better do their jobs.

In a related matter, the council approved a request from the Houston Fall Festival committee to sell porkburgers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 8 on the east side of Cross Street, just east of Main Street.

The council also agreed to pay Columbus Pool & Patio $1,029.98 to clean, descale and polish the slide at the town pool this spring. The town also received a second bid of $3,200 for the work from SlideRenu AquaShield Products of Westerfield, Ohio.