Brookfield Trustees Ron Haun and Gary Lees have voted to install security lights at Brookfield Township Community Park.
The project was put off late last year, when a county prosecutor advised that holding off would avoid the potential argument that this project should have been included with one to install surveillance cameras. The estimated cost of the cameras and lights together topped $50,000, which would have triggered a requirement for competitive bidding.
The cameras were installed in December by Becdel Controls for $49,700, using federal CARES Act money aimed at addressing the COVD-19 pandemic. The cameras were installed on poles tall enough to hold the lights.
At that time, Becdel had given a price of $4,800 to install the lights, and Haun said Becdel has agreed to honor that quote. He added that the lights are on order and he had not been given an estimate as to when they would arrive.
The township will use park improvement funds from the general fund to install the lights.
“It will help with security down at the park. That’s our main concern, from a security standpoint,” Haun said. “It will benefit the youth baseball league, or even the high school, if they’re down there a little bit later. In the past, there’s very little light for them when they ran a little bit later.”
The lights will not be able to be used to play ball games at night, he said.
“They’re just gonna light up areas, more from a safety standpoint,” Haun said.
He added that he hopes the lights will be a deterrent to vandals, and that they will aid police who patrol the park, who as of now only have their car lights for lighting.
In addition to concerns about safety and security, Lees said the lights will help attract events to the park in which the township can make money.
“If we’re looking at revenue, which I discussed before, in having any type of vendors or having anything down there, we want to make sure that we have proper lighting, whether it’s the Boy Scouts or any other possibilities of having anything down there,” Lees said. “We’ve had other infrastructures put down there (expanding electrical and water service), so, by having these lights, I feel that that would be another step forward.”
Trustee Dan Suttles argued against the project on several fronts:
- The lights should have been included with the camera project. “We found a way to get around the law.”
- The township should have sought competitive bids instead of just handing the project to Becdel.
Competitive bidding “allows us, as township officials, to look at more than one price, more than one vendor,” Suttles said. “How do we know we got the best price? We didn’t compare it.”
Haun responded: “We try to give as much business as we can to township businesses. This township business (Becdel) has hired five people that live in our township, that pay taxes in our township, and then you include the owner of the business, himself, who is a taxpayer in the township. He’s done numerous free projects for the township. I’d be surprised if we got a cheaper price for what’s being offered.”
“I understand everything you’re saying, but that doesn’t give somebody carte blanche to get every project in Brookfield Township because of that, in my eyes,” Suttles said.
- Voters turned down a park levy request in 2016, an indication that they don’t want a lot of money spent in the park.
Yet, the park budget increased from $25,000 in 2016 to $49,000 in 2020, before dipping to $44,000 in 2021, and the park’s electricity expense went up when the cameras were installed, and will do so again once the lights are working, Suttles said.
- The park money comes from the township’s general fund.
“In a three-year period, we went down 34 percent in our general fund carryover,” Suttles said. “These are red flags, guys. If we continue down this path, we’re gonna deplete our general fund.”
“Dan, you made a good point about the general fund,” Haun said. “Regardless of whether we put money into the park, or not, the general fund is gonna continue to be depleted if we fund our road department through it with Issue 1 projects, because they take such a large hit out of the general fund.”
Issue 1 is a state bond-funded program to help local communities pave roads and improve storm water drainage. The community must provide a portion of the project funding.
- The park is closed at night.
“It’s nice, it will look lit up in there, but there’s not gonna be anyone in there,” Suttles said.