A Sept. 14 Brookfield trustees meeting called to discuss the potential use of American Rescue Plan Act funds morphed into a brainstorming session on use of Brookfield Township Community Park.
Brookfield has been awarded more than $860,000 in federal ARPA funds. Trustee Dan Suttles has called for the trustees to develop a plan for use of the funds, and Trustee Mark Ferrara has said he wants the money to be spent on projects not addressed in the regular township budget, and that will have a long-term impact.
The trustees already had dedicated $35,000 in ARPA money to replace broken playground equipment and add mulch to the playground in the park.
The township’s road, police and fire departments would like some of that money, and trustees have discussed or heard requests for use of the money for stormwater drainage improvements, expansion of broadband access, improving exterior lighting at the administration buildings and other things.
The trustees also have talked about approaching the Trumbull County commissioners to see if they would be willing to use some of their ARPA money to partner with the township on projects. Trustee Ron Haun suggested addressing the former county home property on the east side of Route 7 in Brookfield – such as demolishing vacant buildings – to make it ready for development.
Haun has consistently noted that Brookfield’s population and tax base is shrinking, and has encouraged community development projects as a way to try to stem that trend.
Some of the ideas for use of the ARPA money have come to fruition by other means. Suttles noted Spectrum had extended cable lines on South Albright McKay Road, making internet access available to residents there, and the fire department received a grant for cardiac monitors.
The township park on Stewart Sharon Road has lots of potential for expansion if money and the right community partnerships can be found, Haun said.
“The majority of the time, it’s an athletic facility,” he said, referring to the use of park fields by Brookfield High School, Brookfield Youth Baseball and Softball and Trumbull County Adaptive Baseball.
“The question we have to ask the citizens is, Do we want it to be more than that?” Haun said. “There’s a lot of people in the township who don’t know this park exists.”
The trustees in recent years have extended water and electric lines to make the park available for community events and installed an electronic gate and security cameras, but the park pavilions and picnic tables have been let go, the playground is showing its age, and the memorial garden is barely maintained. Officials considered building trails and installing new pavilions, but balked at the cost.
Suttles, who has been hesitant to spend much general fund money in the park because voters turned down a park levy a few years ago, said he would like to see more use of the park. It was suggested that a committee be formed made up of the township, the ball leagues, the school and other community groups to come up with a plan for park improvements and fundraising.
Resident Jason Nicholson said there should be a way for the township to tap into the successful ball tournaments at the park hosted by the youth league.
Judy Radachy, a township resident and president of Trumbull Adaptive Baseball, a league for handicapped children and young adults, noted the playground is not handicapped accessible, and the handicapped accessible bathroom is not often available when her league plays.
Suttles said the park has wifi, and strengthening that signal could help make the park a draw.
Township Road Supt. Jaime Fredenburg, who is responsible for park maintenance, said the park needs a fund for maintenance projects. The road department’s responsibilities have expanded, but its funding has not, he said.
Editor’s note: Suttles and Ferarra said they plan to resume meetings concerning the use of ARPA funds after a new trustee is in place.