COUNTY NEWS: Internet installation, courthouse discussion, Valley Branch update

Company gains rights to install fiber optic cable

A local company is one step closer to increasing broadband Internet access in the county after receiving permission to place fiber optic cable in the county’s right-of-way along roads.

The Brown County Commissioners voted Dec. 21 to give Mainstream Fiber Networks access to county right-of-way for the installation and maintenance of fiber optic cable.

County commissioner Joe Wray did not vote, since he is an employee of Mainstream.

The resolution gives the county highway superintendent responsibility for determining where the right-of-way falls along any particular county road.

Brown County Redevelopment Commission President Dave Redding outlined a potential route for the work Mainstream wants to do. The route included portions of State Road 45 and Helmsburg, Grandma Barnes, Lanam Ridge and Morrison roads.

When the work would be done was not discussed.

Commissioners to resurrect courthouse discussion

The Brown County Commissioners plan to reopen discussions about the future of the Brown County Courthouse at their 9 a.m. meeting Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Commissioners President Dave Anderson told the audience at the Jan. 4 meeting that he wants to form a committee of local people, including some of those involved in previous remodel discussions.

The last remodel plan for the courthouse, formed by a previous board of county commissioners, was overwhelmingly rejected through a taxpayer remonstrance in 2013.

Commissioner Diana Biddle said the courthouse has several maintenance issues that have cropped up since its future was last discussed in earnest, such as mortar falling away from between the bricks.

She estimated around $500,000 in repairs are needed without even addressing purely cosmetic concerns.

The three most commonly discussed options to fix space and security concerns are to build an addition to the historic building downtown, to build a new courthouse at a different location, or to only address what can be fixed without major renovations.

INDOT to pay first part of Valley Branch promise

Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner told the commissioners he expects payment before the end of January from the Indiana Department of Transportation for repairs the county has already made to Valley Branch Road.

While Magner has not received a check yet, the voucher INDOT issued to the highway department requires the agency to make payment within 30 days by state law, Magner said.

However, discussions have only just begun on the cost of repaving the entire road, he said.

The voucher only covers what it has cost the county to deal with extra repairs to the road since it was used as a detour in 2015 for INDOT work on the bridge at State Road 135 South and State Road 46 East.

Regardless of INDOT’s timing, Magner anticipates completely grinding up and repaving Valley Branch this summer, he said.

The only question will be whether INDOT provides the county money for the repaving up front, or reimburses the county after the paving is done.

That could have a small impact on county paving plans for this year.

Brown County commissioner Diana Biddle anticipates repaving around 50 miles of county roads in 2017.

If Valley Branch has to be repaved out of the county’s pocket, those four miles would be part of the 50, rather than in addition to them, Magner confirmed. The INDOT reimbursement would then most likely be used for paving in 2018.

Magner said he also expects to do two major bridge projects this year, including the bridge on Country Club Road.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.