Franklin Town Manager Summer Woodard and the Franklin Board of Aldermen kicked off the budgeting planning process last month with a board retreat that outlined goals for the upcoming year.

Aldermen had a chance to identify specific priorities they want to see the board consider moving forward.

“My goals are what I hope are the same goals as every other member of the board – to make decisions and pursue projects that are going to make Franklin a better and more desirable place to live, work, and visit, while not neglecting the necessities of our infrastructure systems and the attention that they will surely need,” said Alderman Brandon McMahan, who will be heading into his first budget cycle as an elected official with Franklin. “That being said, I ultimately hope that we can end 2016 the same way that 2015 was ended: with the town actually ‘in the black’ and having some surplus of funds in the bank.”

Town Planner Justin Setser spoke to the board about moving forward with looking at ways to make Franklin more bike and pedestrian friendly, which is something all aldermen agree on.

“I am very excited about the upcoming bike and pedestrian plan, and I am excited to see that develop over the next year, and I look forward to being able to help out with that process in any way that I can,” said McMahan. “I’ve also asked the board, mayor, manager, and planner if we can look again at the revision plans for Main Street that were brought before a past board, but never really pursued or attended to beyond their initial proposal. I’m hopeful that this can at least be a topic of discussion for the next budget year.”

The town is hosting a kickoff workshop for the bicycle and pedestrian plan on Feb. 23 to encourage community involvement. Setser is looking for input from the community on ways to implement a plan to ensure that Franklin is a safer, more accessible place for residents and visitors who want to walk and bike around town.

“I’m very happy to see planning taking place for our bike and pedestrian areas which is greatly needed for people to not only have an active lifestyle but for many to have safe travel to and from work,” said Vice Chair Patti Abel. “I would love to see anyone join us for the bike and pedestrian plan Open House Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m. at Tartan Hall. This is a great opportunity to be a part of the process. ”

This budget cycle will be the first planning process McMahan and Alderman Adam Kimsey have participated in since being elected to office. “For me, being a freshman alderman, this budget cycle will certainly be a learning experience, but one that I very much look forward to,” said McMahan. “I’m looking forward to learning all that I can, and I just hope that I am able to provide helpful, constructive insight, and a thoughtful, balanced voice to the proceedings, while still keeping an open mind to the advice of the more experienced members of the board and to hopefully glean some of their knowledge in the process.”

Kimsey said one thing he hopes to focus on in the coming year is embracing the new board and leaving past problems in the past. “I know this may be a sore subject, but I just want to make sure that moving forward, we clear the air with things like the Indian Mound and that this new board continue to work together to move forward and leave things like that in the past,” said Kimsey.

Alderman Barbara McRae told the board she would like to see the town’s art and history be a focus in the coming year. McRae, a local historian, updated the board on projects she has been a part of, such as a project on the history of influential women in Franklin. McRae, along with McMahan, said they would like to see downtown branded with local artists and works that speak to Franklin’s natural resources and rich history by means of installing murals or other similar initiatives.

The beautification of Franklin’s Main Street was a common theme during the retreat, and something all board members said they wanted to see emphasized in the coming year.

“I would like to see us evaluate prior studies and plans with our parking along Main Street and the town square gazebo,” said Abel. “Not that both items can be completed but review and make plans for when we can work them into upcoming budgets. I would like to see us help support more family friendly events in and around Franklin by utilizing areas we already have, like the Memorial Park (Jaycee park as I grew up knowing it) and possible use of the space in town hall’s own back yard. Not saying the town will foot the bill for all of these as we have to be careful with our taxpayers money but we can definitely help plan and support public sponsors.”

Alderman Joe Collins, who has served as both mayor and alderman in the past, also advocated for a permanent structure on the town square.

“That is our focal point and something that everyone knows Franklin for,” said Collins. “I think we can do much better than just a funeral tent, because that is essentially what is there now.”

Collins and Abel both brought up the Whitmire Property and the importance of evaluating the property and establishing a value in order to determine if town officials want to develop the property for the public, or put it up for sale, whichever may be most beneficial for town residents.
While planning for the future and town improvements were the primary focus during the retreat, all the board members shared the same sentiment that the budgeting process should be approached by keeping costs down to avoid tax increases.

“My main goal would be that we continue to keep our day to day costs in check at which town employees are doing an awesome job,” said Abel, “and look towards planning for future needs as our town grows. There are a number of items I feel we need to look at that might come in this budget year or near future ones. But we must look at all items and see what is most important for the immediate future of Franklin and also what works into our budget after all day-to-day costs are accounted for along with general maintenance needed as buildings and infrastructure ages. As we look towards the future we need to make sure our police and fire departments have all equipment and provisions needed.”

Brittney Raby – Staff Writer