Written by Tim Reaves at The Franklin Press
Franklin’s leaders are laying out ambitious plans for next year and beyond.
They want to restore blighted areas, make the town bike- and pedestrian friendly and prepare for growth.
“The town has quite a busy schedule ahead,” said Town Manager Summer Woodard.
Actual construction should begin on the water treatment plant upgrade and inspection, with project bidding scheduled to start in April, she said.
The plan is to increase capacity from 2 million gallons per day to 3 million gallons per day as part of a $15.1 million capital improvement plan for water and sewer infrastructure.
“That will be the town’s really, really big project for 2016,” Woodard said.
The Memorial Park stream restoration project should wrap up by April, she said. The combined effort of the town, Duke Energy and Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (now Mainspring Conservation Trust), included bank restoration and the removal of debris along Crawford Branch as part of Phase I. Phase II, now underway, includes planting trees and putting a fence around part of the creek.
The town also is considering adding steps on either side of the creek to a popular wading area to protect the bank, Woodard said.
Town Planner Justin Setser added there will be signage explaining the work that was done and why.
“It’s actually a pretty cool project,” he said.
Setser said his biggest project for the coming year is the new bike and pedestrian plan, funded through a $36,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety.
The town wants to become safer and more attractive to cyclists and pedestrians and will be considering new infrastructure, sidewalks and upgrades to intersections, Setser said.
“We’re still in the fact-finding stage right now,” he said.
But by the end of January, he hopes to have a working document that he can show at upcoming meetings. Setser’s department will use guidance from citizen surveys, meetings and a steering committee to fine tune the proposal.
A rough draft of the plan should be ready by April or May, he said.
“If it’s something we can incorporate in our budget, I think we should begin as soon as possible,” Woodard said.
It’s part of a larger plan to make Franklin more livable, Mayor Bob Scott said. That concept includes everything from fixing Franklin’s parking situation to renovating older buildings and revitalizing blighted neighborhoods to adding better crosswalks.
In the spring, the town plans to repaint its downtown crosswalks with a brick-stamped pattern, Woodard said. The design looks like brick pavers, but actually it’s just painted and stamped asphalt, a less expensive alternative.
“We don’t have to have the crosswalks, but they’d really help,” Scott said.
Alderman Joe Collins said he wants to give the square – at the corner of Main Street and Iotla Street – a facelift.
“It’s just an area of town that serves as the central location for events,” he said. “A piecemeal approach has been what’s been in effect, and I just think it’s time to step it up to something better.”
He said the square needs a more substantial stage area, and the town needs to do something about the former fountain, now just a concrete slab.
“If that’s where we end up congregating, let’s put some money there and make it nice,” he said.
He and Scott both said it’s time the town does something with the 14-acre Whitmire Property.
Scott said he would like the property to include a park, farmers market, outdoor theater or a combination of the three.
“I want to see it put to public use,” Scott said, “but that would be up to the board to make that decision.”
“For too long it’s sat idle,” Collins said. “It’s too valuable to let sit idle, so I’m anxious to see what the board wants to do with it.”
Alderman Barbara McRae said she wants to get to work fixing up Green Street, which she said has become blighted.
“It’s just a street that needs attention,” she said.
She said she would like to see the old AME Zion chapel renovated. It could be the start of a community revival, McRae said.
“I’d like to get some resources to help them with it,” she said.
Downtown has improved greatly because of the attention it’s seen from the board, McRae said.
“I’d like to spread some of that energy around,” she said.
That idea and many more likely will come up at the board’s annual planning retreat later this month.
Collins said the three new board members would benefit from a longer and more substantial retreat.
Scott agreed and said he’s doing something different this year – inviting the public to the discussion.
“This town doesn’t belong to me,” he said. “Ever since I took office I’ve wanted the public more involved in this town.”
The planning retreat is scheduled for Jan. 23.