Brownstown council member resigns

BROWNSTOWN

The Brownstown Town Council has accomplished a lot in the past 3½ years, Ben Lewis said.

But since he no longer lives in Ward 2 on the northeast end of town, Lewis had to resign from his position.

The search for his replacement is underway by the Jackson County Republican Party.

“I hope the people that elected me to office feel like I am leaving the town in better shape than what we found it in,” Lewis said during Monday’s town council meeting. “I wish whoever replaces me for the duration of this term and whoever wins the election next term all the best.”

Lewis’ fellow council members thanked him for his service.

“It has been a pleasure working with you,” council President John Nolting said. “We’re going to miss you, but good luck on your next endeavor.”

Melissa Acton, chairwoman of the county’s Republican Party, said the town’s precinct committee members will meet and vote on someone to take Lewis’ place. The date for the caucus has not been set.

Once the caucus date is set, Ward 2 residents interested in that seat will be able to apply and send Acton a letter of interest.

The person chosen will finish out Lewis’ term through the end of this year. Town council seats will be on the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election.

Among the council’s accomplishments during his tenure, Lewis pointed to maintaining a balanced budget, getting a reserve program going in the police department, placing a resource officer in the schools and making infrastructure improvements around town.

One of the projects in which Lewis has been heavily involved is developing the town’s zoning ordinance and map. That was the council’s goal from the start of his term, but it picked up speed last fall.

“That has been paramount,” he said. “It kind of went stale there for a while, but I kind of really pushed hard late last fall. ‘We’ve got to get this thing going because we may not be sitting here next year, next term.’”

Lewis said he has spent a lot of time outside council meetings and his own job to help establish the zoning map and ordinance. That included forming a plan commission and working with them to get everything in place.

“I have literally, personally went through every single plot on this map, every single one of them, measured them and then applied our ordinance to them,” Lewis said.

The plan commission members were set in the fall, and they met with Lewis every week for the first couple of months this year before going to every other week in March.

“Now that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re starting to throttle back the meetings,” he said.

The next step will be to hire a contractor to make an engineer- or surveyor-quality map, Lewis said.

Then town council then will look through the 117-page ordinance and the map and conduct a public hearing and readings to make them official.

The main purpose behind the ordinance and map is to have something set for development of the town.

“There’s a lot of area that can be developed within our own current, incorporated lines,” Lewis said. “Right now, first and foremost, our absolute only focus has been everything within the corporate limits of our town. There has not been one conversation about anything outside of it.”

Lewis also has had a big hand in helping the town become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has been the ADA coordinator and a member of a five-person committee to develop a detailed list of town properties, sidewalks and thoroughfares.

Midwestern Engineers Inc. is in the process of conducting an inventory of all sidewalks in town, determining if they are handicap-accessible. The company also will help develop a 20-year plan for the town to become compliant.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.