Council addresses the first reading of Ordinance #2023-11 for the restructuring of the park board

By Melissa Gibson

The Brownsburg Town Council met July 13 for a regular meeting at the Brownsburg Town Hall. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 27 at 61 N. Green St., Brownsburg.

What happened: Prior to the public comment portion of the meeting, Council President Travis Tschaenn shared additional information on Ordinance #2023-11, authorizing the restructuring of the Brownsburg Parks Board.

What this Means: Tscheann said in part, that the overall goal was to remove an administrative layer (The Brownsburg Parks Board) to help streamline information, parks-related projects and allow for better oversight of the parks budget and expenditures through the Council.

“This is not a reflection of the park board or its members. The restructuring will not cause any park staff changes. Park trails, amenities and programs will not change,” Tscheann said.

The change would place the parks department under direct management of the Town Manager and would “eliminate any disconnect between the Council and the parks department.”

The Council has the ability to form a parks advisory board to assist with meetings, advocating for the public and additional input. Many communities in the area including Fishers, Avon, Westfield and Whitestown currently operate under advisory councils.

In addition, Tscheann said since the parks board formation in 1959, the Town has received two grants to assist with the development of Virgil Park and Williams Park. The hope is that the Grants committee might be able to find additional programs and opportunities available.

What happened: Once the public comment portion was open to the Council, several members spoke against the disillusion of the parks board.

What this Means: As at least eight residents shared their positive opinions of the parks board and its operation over the past several decades. Some suggested the restructure would not be in the Town of Brownsburg’s best interest, it would add a political component to the workings of the parks department and the council was not qualified to manage the parks department with comparison to what the parks board has done previously.

A letter written by Parks Board President Judy Kenninger, read by Councilman Chris Worley shared Kenninger’s opinion on the matter. She wrote in part, “Your park board has delved in and served as the eyes and ears of Brownsburg residents. You have six highly qualified individuals who are ready to focus entirely on Brownsburg Parks and amenities. Please put the community’s interest first and vote no.”

Kenninger’s statement also shared that the parks board was appointed by the council and while they are ready and willing to take the council’s direction, they had never received any message of disappointment or dissatisfaction with their work.

What happened: The first reading of Ordinance #2023-11 for the restructuring of the park board was addressed by the council.

What this means: Members of the Council said they would be in favor of creating a parks advisory board. They agreed they wanted to continue their positive relationship with the parks department and they wanted to hear the public’s input.

Councilman Worley shared his disagreement with the restructuring proposal. “I don’t want the town council members taking on the duties and responsibilities of the parks board. I trust the parks director and the leadership of the parks board to continue to operate in a fiscally responsible manner. In the last ten years, they’ve done a great job. I want the town citizens who care about the park to have the chance to be on the park board,” Worley said.

Worley made a motion to deny the ordinance, but the motion failed to receive a second.

Vice President Matt Simpson made a motion to approve, followed by Councilman Ben Lacey. The vote on first reading was 4-1, with Worley opposed.

What Happened: Travis Tranbarger, Director of Parks and Recreation shared the Park Board Report.

What this Means: Tranbarger thanked the Parks and Recreation staff for their assistance in multiple summer camps over the past several weeks in addition to their expertise and work on the Fourth of July Extravaganza.

He also shared the community engagement portion of the Parks and Recreation five-year Master Plan was underway and there will be several opportunities in the near future for the public to submit input, including a new website page with an interactive map to identify needs and desires for the parks system.

What happened: Samuel Lowe, Chamber of Commerce Board President shared a Chamber of Commerce Report.

What this Means: Lowe said there were currently 322 active members in the Greater Brownsburg Area Chamber. They recently received an award from the Indiana Chamber Executive Association for their public policy and work or partnership with all chambers in the county.

What happened: Resolution #3023-17 was brought before the Council regarding the declaration of official intent to reimburse expenditures for the Aquatic Center Project.

What this Means: While several members of the community spoke on the subject during the public comment portion of the meeting, asking about plans, design, funding and more, the Council, along with Town Manager Deb Cook and others said the resolution was the first step in a very long process.

Tschaenn also spoke of the project at the start of the council meeting. The aquatic center consists of three phases; the indoor/ outdoor swimming pool space to be completed approximately by summer of 2025, an amphitheater and a recreation center. The council president stated the intent was not to compete with local fitness and wellness businesses in the area and the initial capital outlay of $18 million would not interfere or prohibit current or future infrastructure projects or priorities.

Council members discussed the importance of traffic issues being resolved, the third-party management of the Aquatic Center and the importance of receiving public input as the project moves forward.

Though plans and designs were not presented at the meeting, the purpose of the resolution was to protect the town from any costs incurred throughout the process that may later be reimbursed. The resolution was approved unanimously.