National Guard veteran presents flag to Town of Franklin
The first Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen meeting of the new year saw the return of Vice-Mayor Verlin Curtis and Alderman Carolyn “Sissy” Patillo, who were both absent at previous meetings due to health issues.
At the beginning of the meeting, a local veteran presented tokens of appreciation to the board for the town’s support of his family as well as the Army National Guard. After recently returning from a tour of duty in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Army Alpha Company Commander John Vanhook, originally of Franklin, presented the town with a plaque and flag that was flown in the Middle-Eastern city during Operation Enduring Freedom. The flag was flown from Sept. 10-15, 2010.
Franklin Mayor Joe Collins accepted the gifts on behalf of the town. “We’ll keep it in high honor and esteem and we appreciate the work that you and all the others are doing for us over in the Middle East,” he said.
Fire Chief seeks cooperation on upgrades
Franklin Fire and Rescue is preparing to upgrade its existing fire coverage system in the town and municipal districts.
FFR Chief Pete Haithcock came before the board to “bring them up to speed” on what the department needs in order to pass an upcoming system inspection from the state in October — the North Carolina Rural Rating Survey.
The inspection rating would have a direct impact on fire insurance premiums paid by the department as well as homeowners. “It’s for fire insurance only,” said Haithcock, adding that the purchase of some items may be essential in lowering fire insurance rates.
Out of the 438 fire hydrants in the town and municipal fire districts, Haithcock estimated 25 to 35 hydrants require maintenance, while other hydrant installations are needed elsewhere. He also said that with the upcoming addition of a 500,000-gallon water tank in the Riverbend community, the department could get an improved rating. The new addition is expected to be completed by this spring.
The identification of additional water sources will also play a role in the department’s overall rating, accounting for 45 percent of the score.
The department has been inspecting existing hydrants, and has located and catalogued those in need of repair. “We have several that need to be fixed right away and if [the inspector] goes out and inspects and finds some like that, it’s not going to be good for us,” Haithcock explained.
Haithcock said that the town has a leg up on reducing insurance rates, as the current number of fire departments is adequate. Town GIS mapping is advanced when compared to other towns such as Bryson City, and he said that existing water reservoirs are also plentiful.
The inspection’s rating system is based on a 1 to 10 scale. Areas determined to have less thanadequate fire coverage receive a higher rating, and areas with more exceptional coverage receive a lower rating, such as a six or less. The higher the rating, the higher the insurance rate.
“Insurance companies lose a lot of money when the rates go down,” said Haithcock. FFR has a current rating of 9S. He stated the departments goal was to earn a rating of six, a score that offers the lowest rates. “This is what we’re trying to offer the people outside the city limits,” he said.
Haithcock reported that Franklin Fire and Rescue responded to 1,272 calls in 2010. Sixty-six percent of the calls were medical response calls. Both figures showed a marked increase compared to previous years, he said.
Ridgecrest Exxon petitions for annexation
Ridgecrest Exxon owner Orville Coward, Jr., presented a petition to annex his Sylva Road store and property. The project still has to be assessed by the county, and sewage and water lines still have to be connected to the property.
The board voted unanimously to approve the petition.
“Thank you very much and thank you for your patience,” said Coward to the board. “Franklin is a wonderful place to live.”
Sidewalk improvement plan under way
While the price of cement is down, Town Planner Michael Grubermann suggested the Town advertise to begin the bidding process for sidewalk work along Iotla and Phillips Streets, from Church Street to Palmer.
Having the sidewalks on both sides of the street and around the Town Square repaired would all be a part of the second phase of the Town’s 25-year beautification plan. “We’re just getting started,” said Grubermann. He noted in his proposal that the sidewalks are deteriorating and need replacing or upgrading.
Just last year, the North Carolina Department of Transportation committed $74,000 as reimbursement to the project. Once the town receives bids on the project, a total cost can then be determined.
“We’re hoping to get some reasonable bids on this,” said Grubermann.
The board voted unanimously to begin the bidding process of the sidewalk project.
Annexation fees revised
Previously, the Town has charged a $500 fee for satellite annexations, but did not charge for the annexation of contiguous properties. Grubermannn proposed to revise the annexation fee to include all voluntary annexations, largely due to the staff time needed to process petitions and paperwork in the approval process.
“There is a fair amount of expense, so we figured, at least at this point, that we make the fee the same at $500 each,” said Grubermann.
Grubermann said that he was comfortable with the fee change for the time, however the Planning Department hasn’t taken on the task of keeping track of the time needed for the process of approving such annexations.
The board voted unanimously to establish a $500 fee to annex contiguous properties.
A look ahead
Aside from quick approvals to both annex the property of Emma Jean Taylor and maintain Hays Lane, off of Phillips Street, the board concluded its business by scheduling the annual retreat for Jan. 15. At the retreat, town officials will discuss business coming up in the year ahead, including a possible reduction in employee benefits. The retreat will be held at Town Hall.