Town Council recognizes employees and approves feasibility study

The outgoing Franklin Police Chief receives retirement awards at Town of Franklin Council meeting including the Order of the Longleaf Pine Award. From left: NC State Senator Kevin Corbin, Bill Harrell, his wife Patti, his daughter Taylor, and Mayor Jack Horton.

Dan Finnerty – Contributing Writer

The November 7 Town of Franklin Council meeting kicked off with recognitions of new hires and presentations of service awards to long time employees.

New Hires

Fire Chief Ben Ormond introduced two new firefighters, Joe Templeton and Mark Stanfield; Capt. Devin Holland (incoming Franklin Police Chief) introduced new officer, Cody Tiger; Public Works Director Bill Deal introduced new hires, Travis Waldroop, Water Treatment Operator, and Tony Nichols, Meter Reader.

Town Planner Justin Setser introduced Gio Hernandez, Facilities and Grounds Maintenance Technician

Service awards were presented by Town Manager Amie Owens and Human Resources Director Nicole Bradley: 

Detective Justin Norman was recognized for 10 years of service; Eddie Sheffield and Jackie Downs, 15 years; Capt. Tim Chavis, Sgts. Christy Evans and Mark McConnell for 20 years; and Will Clark, Capt. Devin Holland, and Scotty Keener have worked for the town for 25 years.

The Order of the Longleaf Pine Award is the highest award for state service granted by the office of the governor. Nominations can be made for retiring individuals who have 30 or more years of service in the State of North Carolina. The award is granted to persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishment. Two Macon County public servants were named to receive the award – Retired Franklin Police Department Capt. Steve Apel, presented by retired Macon County Sheriff’s Department Major Andy Shields; and Franklin Police Chief Bill Harrell, presented by North Carolina State Senator Kevin Corbin (R) and Mayor Jack Horton.

New business

The Council’s new business involved Owens and Town Attorney John Henning Jr. presenting a proposed licensing agreement between the Town and the First United Methodist Church (FUMC), which would allow the Town to take control of the Walk Skatepark area. The agreement would further permit the Town to operate designated park areas owned or operated by the Town for certain hazardous activities, including skateboarding. The purpose of FUMC’s proposal is to provide a facility for skateboarding while the new skateboarding park project continues. Henning recommended that the Council consider some legal language within the agreement to protect the Town as insurance against risk associated with managing the facility area. Mayor Horton emphasized that following through with this agreement “has nothing to do with the Town’s commitment to go ahead and construct and operate the new skatepark we are working on now.” The Council ultimately decided to table the approval until the next scheduled Town Council meeting, Dec. 5.

Also discussed was approval to move forward on a contract permitting SFCS Architects to conduct a feasibility study on converting the former Angel Medical Center into senior affordable housing. The cost submitted by SFCS is $155,000. According to Owens, “Environmental studies or other financial components would be additional costs handled by other entities,” said Owens.

The original grant was for $267,5000.  Henning recommended tentative approval by the Council, pending his edits. Council approved moving forward on the proposal.

Town offices will be closed on Friday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veterans Day. A parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Town Hall. Veterans are welcome to march in the parade. Lineup begins at 10 a.m. The parade will culminate at the gazebo on the square with special music and speakers paying tribute to members of the armed services. Town offices will also be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 24-25 for Thanksgiving.

Franklin Police Chief Bill Harrell retires

Franklin Police Chief Bill Harrell was recognized Monday at the Town Hall Board Room with a reception hosted by the Town of Franklin and Franklin Police Department. Harrell served not only Franklin but also Macon County and the state of North Carolina over the past 30 years. Chief Harrell took his current post as Franklin Police Chief in June 2020. Before that, he served as Town of Highlands Police Chief for 14 years and was recognized for his strong leadership, while also instilling a high level of professionalism within the Highlands Police Department. 

At the November 7 Council meeting, N.C. State Senator Kevin Corbin remembered that Chief Harrell served as Macon County’s first school resource officer and that he “set the bar, set the standard.” Corbin added, “One word that comes to mind when I think of Bill is ‘faithful,’ not only to his family, his children, his wife, but to his town, to his job … Bill has faithfully executed those duties.”

Chief Harrell will move on to a part-time position as an adjunct professor with Southwestern Community College (SCC) within its Criminal Justice Technology (CJT) program. Harrell has been an instructor for nearly two decades. 

Captain Devin Holland will assume the chief’s position beginning Dec. 1. Holland is a veteran officer with more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement, all with the Town of Franklin. He has served as Patrol Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Patrol Captain. He holds a BS degree in Criminal Justice from Western Carolina University and an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from Southwestern Community College.