Flood commemoration draws mixed reviews

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, August 12, 2009

FRANKLIN—With the 10th anniversary of the 1999 flood that devastated downtown Franklin fast approaching, some city leaders are pushing for a public commemoration. Others don’t think it’s appropriate.

“The flood is not a pleasant memory,” Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “We need to think about celebrating when we have done something that prevents another flood.”

She said the downtown retail base and its tax receipts still haven’t returned to pre-flood levels 10 years after Hurricane Floyd caused the Blackwater River to overflow its banks and engulf the downtown business district.

Mayor Jim Councill suggested the city work in conjunction with the Downtown Franklin Association, which has been considering a Sept. 11 commemoration, to prevent an overload of events in September. However, City Manager June Fleming said she would want any type of flood commemoration to be done well – and suggested that it may be too late to start planning now.

“It’s kind of short notice,” she said. “We aren’t really coordinated and ready to get this no-budget operation off the ground.”

Dan Howe, manager of the Downtown Franklin Association, said the city needs to showcase all of the progress that has been made since the flood.

“There’s a lot to be proud of, whether we call it a celebration or not,” he said.

He suggested encouraging area media to commemorate the flood anniversary.

Councilwoman Mary Hilliard questioned the premise of a commemoration when some residents, especially along Broad Street, still haven’t fully recovered.

“How can you celebrate when there are some residents still affected by the flood?” she asked.

Councilman Benny Burgess acknowledged that there is a fine line between celebrating the city’s achievements since the flood and being respectful to business owners and residents who are still recovering.

“To me, what Franklin accomplished is unbelievable,” he said. “Maybe there is some middle ground that DFA can hit where we don’t have to throw it in people’s faces.”