Citizens oppose, favor extra recreation money

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

FRANKLIN—Residents were both for and against adding money to the city’s parks and recreation department budget during a public hearing on the proposed budget Monday.

A plan originally nixed by the City Council to add $50,000 to the department’s budget was revisited by residents, who presented a petition with 225 signatures to city manager June Fleming requesting the money be used for more youth programs.

“I don’t know how we can not afford to help our youth,” said resident Dr. Wendall Johnson. “Our youth need us, and we need them.”

A motion by Councilman Greg McLemore in a previous meeting to use $50,000 from elsewhere in the budget for the parks and recreation department did not pass. Mayor Jim Councill and Councilman Don Blythe favored the motion, while Councilwoman Mary Hilliard and Councilmen Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess voted against it. Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson was absent.

McLemore asked for additional funds because summer programs could keep youth out of trouble.

“I would much rather see them get stimulated by one of these programs than end up in a street gang,” McLemore said. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Cheatham said the plan would’ve have consisted of a “raid” of the city’s savings built up from refinancing debt in 2010. The money was set aside to make up for a future loss in revenue from the closing of the International Paper mill.

“They want to spend today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow,” Cheatham said.

Burgess said spending the money is not the best option at this time.

“It takes tough decisions to hold the line,” Burgess said. “There are a lot of things this community can do without spending more money.”

Resident Thomas Councill said the current funding for youth programs is inadequate and was in favor of adding $50,000 more.

“The kids need something to do,” Councill said. “They need an opportunity to advance themselves. I want you to do the right thing for the children of Franklin.”

Resident Rick Ivey was opposed to spending the money.

“Nothing should be added that’s not essential to the operation of the city, and the safety of its citizens,” Ivey said. “In other words, if it’s elective elect not to do it.”

The council is scheduled to adopt the budget at its 7 p.m. Monday, June 13, meeting at City Hall.