COUNTY NEWS: Speed limit reduced; update on courthouse remodel

Speed limit reduced for West Robertson Road

An ordinance reducing the speed limit on West Robertson Road to 30 MPH was approved unanimously by the Brown County Commissioners on Feb. 19.

The speed limit will be reduced on West Robertson from State Road 135 North to Richardson Drive east and westbound. The speed limit maximum will be 30 MPH unless weather or other conditions require a lower maximum speed limit.

Commissioner Dave Anderson said he had an issue with reducing the speed limit, but he seconded Biddle’s motion to approve the ordinance on first reading. “I have an issue with the whole daggone thing — I really do, the whole blasted thing,” he said.

“We’re changing the speed limit and nobody will ever get a ticket. Our sheriff’s department, our state police, nobody will ever give a ticket for speeding on West Robertson Road. It’s just paperwork.”

Van Buren Township resident Ron Fleetwood said lowering a speed limit has the possibility to increase accidents.

“You have people who try to obey the speed limit and other people who don’t pay any attention as they did before. It can, in some cases, cause more accidents, so that may be something to keep an eye on,” he said.

The commissioners received a petition signed by residents on West Robertson Road asking for the speed limit to be reduced. The road met the sight distance requirement to reduce a speed limit.

“There’s not a real good place up there to try to run radar and catch speeders. I am not sure if the sheriff’s department has a lot of time to spend on a dead-end road like that, but we have a request to lower it,” commissioners President Jerry Pittman said.

“It’s probably not going to hurt anything to do this, although Ron makes a good point.”

The new speed limit will go into effect after it is advertised for two weeks. The first publication is in this week’s Marketplace section.

Update on courthouse remodel project

The Brown County Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of proceeding with the remodel project at the Brown County Courthouse, which will require some money from the county’s $2 million capital improvement loan.

Commissioner Diana Biddle presented blueprints of the proposed remodel, intended to improve security and make the building more accessible to people of all of abilities.

In November, Brown Circuit Court Judge Mary Wertz applied for a court reform grant through the Indiana Office of Court Services. Last month, the county received a $30,000 grant to fund security work at the courthouse, which was built in 1877.

The grant will be used primarily to restrict public access in the court offices on the second floor and the probation office on the first floor. It also will be used to relocate the jury room to the law library on the second floor and to convert the small meeting room into a juror restroom that is compliant with the Americans with Disability Act.

Biddle estimated the commissioners will have to use around $30,000 out of the capital improvement loan the county recently took out to pay for a ramp to the new court office entrance, a secured entrance for the clerk’s office, and any additional costs the grant cannot cover related to the new restroom.

The most recent plan for the capital improvement loan had included around $9,000 for courthouse security upgrades. More money can be taken from the $44,000 that had been earmarked for new siding and a new deck at the Sycamore Valley Community Center, commissioner Diana Biddle said.

“I think we may still have enough money left in there to do the siding at the senior citizen center. It won’t eat up all of that. If we do the siding and we can’t do the deck, then we just won’t do the deck,” she said.

The grant dollars must be used by the end of this year.

In 2018, the county hired a firm to make recommendations about how to fix space and accessibility needs related to the Brown County Courthouse.

DLZ offered two suggestions: Move court offices to a new justice center that would be built next to the Brown County Law Enforcement Center, and move some county employees into the current courthouse after it is renovated.

“This (project) is not going to replace us having a justice center at some point in the future, but it will delay it quite a bit. We’re not going to be doing a justice center right now,” commissioner Dave Anderson said on Feb. 19.

“Essentially, we’re still putting Band-Aids on things, but it will allow for a much less crowded jury room. Anyone who has ever served on a jury, it was like sardines in a can in the old room,” Biddle added.

Biddle said she would check with the Brown County Historical Society to see if they would want any of the older law books from the law library. They would work with the recycling center to dispose of other books, she said.

“We don’t buy a set of law books every year. We just don’t do that anymore,” she said.

A new bailiff platform will also be built during this remodel on the opposite side of the courtroom from where it stands now.

Once bids for the project are received, Biddle said she will be able to solidify the total cost of the project.