With seven full-time officers, the Brownstown Police Department could use more working space.
The small area officers have to use inside the building at 200 W. Walnut St. that also houses the town hall and street department no longer is sufficient.
About four years ago, CSX Railroad deeded the 0.4-acre Ewing Depot property on the far west side to the town. Brownstown/Ewing Main Street started a depot restoration project before Darlene Butt took over.
Butt plans to be finished within a month and has offered to deed the building to the town.
The town council recently discussed moving the police department to the depot.
Councilman Gary Drake and Police Chief Tom Hanner recently looked inside the depot to see if it would suit the department.
“It’s going to have to be utilized in some way, and these guys need a new facility, so it seems like to me to be a pretty good fit,” Drake said. “Not only that, since it is on the extreme west end of town, if you did have some type of town emergency or whatever … and your county sheriff’s department is on the other end of town, far east, there’s some obvious strategic advantage there.”
Drake said the police department needs something better than its current space.
“What they’ve got now, as far as I’m concerned, is totally inadequate and has been for a long time,” he said. “This is our community. We want a good, safe community. We want to be able to attract, in the future, officers that are skilled. If we want a good, safe town, it seems to me we’re going to have to step up to the plate a bit and take care of this issue.”
He said he feels it’s in the town’s best interest.
“We all have families here,” he said. “I’ve got three granddaughters growing up in this town. I’d like to see us maintain a good, adequate police department with skilled, highly professional police officers. A decent facility and decent pay are what it’s going to take to attract them now and in the future. If we want to be able to maintain that, then we’re going to have to facilitate that.”
Councilman Bill Sweeney, however, said housing the police department in the depot is not a good move because of its proximity to the railroad tracks.
“I just think down there is going to be completely inadequate,” Sweeney said. “I’m a firm believer in Ewing, but that train going through there, I can just see those guys in there about three months and they will be wanting to move back up (to their current location).”
Sweeney said he was under the impression that at least four trains were traveling on the railroad tracks on a daily basis, but council President Sally Lawson said that number is lower.
She and Drake both said Hanner didn’t seem to have an issue with trains coming through.
“This is just very preliminary,” Drake said. “We just wanted to have a look at it. It’s being offered to the town, and Tom looked at it. He seemed to think it might be (good for the department). Nothing is set in stone. It’s just something that’s being looked at.”
If the town decides to move the police department to the depot, Lawson said it would be good to have separate offices for Hanner and Assistant Police Chief Joe Kelly and then have cubicles for the other officers.
The depot has a restroom, and there is an area where a break room or another office could be added. The building also has a handicap-accessible ramp.
Outside, a two-story, two-car garage could be built. That would house two police cars in the bottom and possibly offices or meeting space in the top. There also would be plenty of space for parking.
Drake and Hanner will continue to develop plans and determine cost.
“I think we do need to do it right,” Drake said. “We don’t need to do anything super-elaborate, but something that’s adequate, professional and just quite frankly something that makes sense.”