Published 9:44 am Wednesday, June 3, 2015

On Sept. 7, 1961, the following editorial appeared on the Opinion page of The Tidewater News:

“As headlined and reported on the front page of today’s Tidewater News, the Town of Franklin has moved officially toward becoming a second-class city.

The move was expected. The first reaction of some people may be that the move may create differences and ill will between the county and the town. The end result, we think, could be exactly the opposite.

First of all, the town seems to have made a fair offer. The town’s willingness to negotiate on paying a share of the school debt for the entire county is an example.

The result of city status is that Franklin will have the responsibility of taking care of its needs, such as schools, and will also bear the responsibility of raising the money to meet those needs. This the town can do, the town council feels, without raising tax rates. Money now paid in county taxes would, in the future, go to the city.

The one dark spot in the picture for the county is that the county may miss the one-third or so of county revenue now coming from Franklin. Much of this, of course, has been returned to the town in various ways, such as in school buildings.

Some of the thorns in town-county relations in past years have arisen from the fact that decisions involving Franklin had to come through the county. By the same token, Franklin had sometimes taken differing stands on decisions involving the county.

When Franklin becomes a second-class city, this situation will be a thing of the past. The county will have exclusive control of its activities. The town will have the same control over its activities.

The result could well be a situation where there are fewer causes for friction and a deeper need for cooperation.

Everyone involved hopes that this sign of growth by the Town of Franklin will result in closer teamwork and better understanding between the county and town, not the opposite.”

At the time, the decision for Franklin to secede from Southampton County was driven by, among other things, the town’s desire to control its own schools and economic destiny. Fifty-four years later, Franklin — as an independent city — is struggling with both. Southampton County, for its part,enjoys neither a top-flight school system nor a booming economy of its own. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20. However, we hope that community leaders are willing to finally lay down the politics of the past and make strategic decisions that help both localities — either as separate entities or as a single unit — move forward in such a way that it is beneficial to all concerned.

If not now, when?