Council appoints ward 4 school board rep

Published 2:09 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Franklin’s city council voted 5-0 with two abstentions to appoint Marchelle Williams to the ward four seat on the Franklin City School Board, and reconvened their public hearing to appoint a ward five school board representative, during which they received two nominations at their regular scheduled meeting, held on Monday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of city hall.

Councilors Linwood Johnson and Greg McLemore were the abstaining votes. The vote to appoint Williams was taken after Councilwoman Mary Hilliard’s motion to appoint Mona Murphy failed to receive a second and Johnson’s motion to appoint Michael W. Foreman received only two aye votes, those being from Johnson and McLemore.

Williams is a former teacher with the Greensville County School System and a current case manager for the Western Tidewater Community Services Board.

For ward five, Gwendolyn Blue nominated Ricky Sykes, and cited Sykes’ being a graduate of Franklin High School, a community leader in the city, and the father of four children.

Also nominated was Jessica Grant, a 2005 graduate of Franklin High School. Cynthia Barrett nominated Grant and cited her impending 2018 graduation from Norfolk State University with a degree in English with a secondary endorsement in education, and her being a certified, licensed minister in her nomination.

City council will likely conduct interviews with both candidates next week during a called meeting and vote on an appointment during their Feb. 27 meeting.

Following the closing of the public hearing, Robin Jones, a certified public accountant with Creedle, Jones and Alga, presented the firm’s audit findings for the city’s fiscal year 2015-2016 comprehensive annual financial report. According to Jones, the firm gave the city a clean opinion, also known as an unmodified opinion, which means they found no material weaknesses or deficiencies in the city’s internal controls.

The city’s finance director, Melissa Rollins, then presented a report on the city’s bookkeeping as of December 2016, which is the halfway point for fiscal year 2016-2017. According to Rollins, the total revenue the city has collected via general property taxes as of December, which includes current and delinquent real estate taxes, current and delinquent personal property taxes, penalties and interest, and public service corporation taxes, is approximately $4.32 million, which is near fiscal year 2015-2016’s halfway point total of $4.36 million.

She added that real estate taxes for the city are down by approximately $33,000 or 1.2 percent from last year’s midpoint reported figures, and that penalties and interest collected are down 37 percent from fiscal year 2015-2016.

As of December, the city had also realized 47.9 percent of local sales and use taxes, 45.9 percent of cigarette taxes, 52.3 percent of meals taxes and 54.9 percent of lodging taxes, for a total of 49.7 percent of all local tax revenues realized.

The city has also received $100,328 in revenue from permits and license fees via their revenue sharing agreement with Southampton County, in which the city receives 36 percent and the county receives 64 percent of the proceeds. Revenue sharing agreements with Isle of Wight County have brought in approximately $680,000 of the $710,000 budgeted for the year.

Rollins highlighted two areas of potential concern, one being that the municipal airport is currently has a cash balance of negative $101,138, approximately, but is due to receive a $133,249 transfer from the city’s general fund soon. The other area of concern she mentioned was that the city’s ambulance service revenue is down from prior years and will require analysis to determine why.

Following Rollins presentation, the city council voted unanimously to accept a tentative budget calendar for fiscal year 2017-2018, which they will discuss further at a later work session.

During citizens’ time, Ross Preau spoke on behalf of Michael Foreman as a candidate for the ward four school board seat. Dan Howe of the Downtown Franklin Association announced that 38 businesses were now in the Startup Downtown Franklin program. Ronnie McClenny presented the council with a Freedom of Information Act request pertaining to the city’s fiscal condition, specifically concerning its police department. In his FOIA request, McClenny asks:

• Does the city have in place an audit system to check the hours worked by the administration?

• Does the Chief of Police work the required 40 hours per week mandated by city policy?

• Does the communications manager work the required 32 hours per week as mandated by job description and city policy?

• Does the communications manager or communications supervisor fill in and work in the capacity of a dispatcher when there is a shortage of manpower?

• Why does the police department not only have a communications manager, but also a communications supervisor? Is this two people doing the same job?

• Is it true that when the Virginia State Police did an audit on the completeness and competence of the Virginia Criminal Information Network inside the Franklin Police Department that it was so poorly done that the police department is in jeopardy of losing its license?

• How many officers and dispatchers are we short inside the police department?

• How many officers have been hired since the police received a $5,000 pay increase in 2016?

• What are the employment statistics over the last five years in the turnover in the police department? Specifically, the number of people hired and number of employees that have left, to include dispatchers?

• How many times has the police department purchased new service weapons since 2004? Is this expenditure for the safety of our officers and citizens or for someone’s personal gain?

• How much did it cost to build the shelter behind the police department to uncover the armored vehicle that has sat behind the building for the past eight years uncovered? Was the cost in excess of $45,000?

• Is the City of Franklin insured if this armored vehicle is involved in an accident and the driver is not qualified to operate said vehicle?

•In 2008, the city adopted the state law that gives the city the ability to collect money from DUI arrests. How much money has been collected during the last eight and a half years?

• How much money has been collected since last year when Chris Horne of WAVY 10 did a story about collecting money from DUI arrests?

• How much water is being consumed behind the police department for off-duty employment in the business of washing and detailing vehicles? Is the off-duty personnel paying for the use of this water?

• Is water being consumed for personal gain? Citizens are charged for a minimum of 5,000 gallons per month whether they use it or don’t use it.

The open session part of the meeting concluded with City Manager R. Randy Martin announcing that CSX Railroad will do maintenance on its College Drive and High Street crossings on Feb. 21 and 27 respectively, and the council voting 6-1 to participate in the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s proposed development, The Estates of Banks Street, to be located on a portion of the former Suburban Gardens apartments lot.

Council also passed unanimous resolutions honoring former councilman and school board member Elvin Vaughan, who passed away earlier this week, and endorsing the “Read Across America” program to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s 113th birthday on Thursday, March 2.

The next regular scheduled city council meeting will be on Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers.