Franklin Town Council Holds Annual Retreat

Franklin Town Hall photo by Vickie


Dan Finnerty – Contributing Writer

By most standards a “retreat,” when used in terms of a group meeting, brings visions of people gathering, relaxing, and generally having a good time. On Feb. 17 and 18, the Town of Franklin Council met not to relax, but to discuss and prioritize the year’s expected tasks and undertakings. After initially going over topics on Friday evening, the group met again Saturday morning at 8:30 to rack and stack their order of business for 2023.

Town Manager Amie Owens began the second session introducing two members of WithersRavenel (WR) – Ken Orie, utilities engineering director, and Dana Bolden, project manager. They were at the meeting to answer Council questions about the water plant and what WR might be able to bring to the effort to improve it, within Town priorities and expectations. The current water plant has been in place and operating since the 1960s.

“Generally for this kind of facility, 40 or 50 years is the lifespan expectancy,” said Bolden. 

The two representatives presented a slideshow on the operative mechanics of the existing water plant and challenges with continued operation and condition of each. At the conclusion of the presentation, Owens recommended the Council prioritize the work that already has designs completed and get that accomplished over the next three-to-five years, in order to budget adequately for potential basin and filter repairs described by WR.

Bolden concluded by reminding the Council, “We’re here to serve you and we want to tell you the things you need to know. Sometimes you’re not going to like what I have to tell you – ‘Yeah, you’ve got some things that need to be fixed.’ We will implement your priorities.”

“We’ve made the request to go up to $12.4 million (for the total project),” said Owens, while council member David Culpepper reminded everyone that due to current funding realities, the project must be phased out, regardless of the final decision.

Next up was a presentation by No Wrong Door (NWD), an organization that pulls services together to assist with homelessness and addiction issues within Macon County and the Town of Franklin. Dinah Mashburn, NWD president and Sheila Jenkins, executive director, were both present to provide information and answer any questions the Council might pose. After receiving an overview on the organization, the Council heard from Jenkins on more specific issues presently in need of attention and funding, such as the growing drug addiction epidemic in the area. She also summarized complicating factors encountered regularly with helping people in need, the most prevalent of which is no identification and no physical address. Each are critical in obtaining assistance in many cases. Use of the former Angel Medical facility as a potential assistance option, was also briefly discussed, while it was also acknowledged that specific future use of the building is still up in air.

Town Planner Justin Setser and Town Attorney John Henning, Jr. presented various maps of locales throughout the town and ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction) that reflect zoning challenges to be considered in the coming year. Currently, 347 parcels are on the list and Setser focused on potential areas for housing. Manufactured versus single family and apartment housing were all covered, including what zoning changes would need implementing in order to increase building options. With such a large number of areas to review, Henning estimated at least a couple months for the Planning Board to do so.

Additionally, Culpepper suggested that people be notified when the Planning Board is discussing their property, in order to avoid situations like one recently encountered (7 Plantation Drive rezoning request/decision) where residents were vastly unaware of the effort until it was well underway. A consensus was reached by the Council to submit a request for more refined prioritization of the potential rezoning areas to the Planning Board for their review, input, and recommendation feedback.

Next, Police Chief Devin Holland discussed a proposal for his department to use CarFax’s law enforcement-specific resource to assist with investigative processes, free of charge, that includes tracking vehicles of suspected criminal activity. Holland’s proposal is to use the features provided by CarFax to implement a report fee for either individuals or insurance entities, both of which periodically require them and will end up purchasing through another means. He proposed $10 for private party use and $20 for insurance and corporate reports. The Council agreed to take on this proposal for consideration and place the request on the March agenda.

Lastly was discussion of tax rates, which are ultimately determined by use of millage rates. By definition, millage is the amount of tax payable per dollar of the assessed value of a property. As used in property tax, one mill is equal to $1 in property tax levied per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

While no decisions were made, Council discussion included the current $.35 cents per dollar for millage, whether that needed to increase, what Macon County’s rate will be (still unknown), and how much, if any, the rate needs to be above revenue-neutral. Owens offered to have information back to the Council by their first budget book session on April 17.