Council appoints ward 5 school board member

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Franklin’s city council voted 5-0 with two abstentions to appoint Jessica Grant to the ward five seat on the Franklin City School Board during its regular scheduled council meeting on Monday, and voted unanimously to approve a $50,000 contract with the firm MFSG to develop a report on the monetary value of the city’s water and sewer infrastructure.

The two abstaining votes on Grant’s appointment were councilors Linwood Johnson of ward four and Greg McLemore of ward three. Grant’s appointment fills the last vacant seat on the school board.

The vote on the contract with MFSG to develop a report on the value of the city’s water and sewer infrastructure comes as a result of the city’s mid-December 2016 request for proposals, and was one of the recommendations a shared utility services study prepared in late 2015 by the Timmons Group made to the city and county governments. Per the contract, MFSG will also prepare a report on the development of a financial framework for equitable consolidation of the city’s and county’s water and sewer assets and prepare another report with a plan to equalize water and sewer rates for customer bases in the city and county.

The city and county governments will use the three reports to further evaluate the possibility of creating a Franklin-Southampton water and sewer authority. The contract awards MFSG a total of $100,000 to create the three reports, $50,000 of which will come from the City of Franklin, with the other half coming from Southampton County. Completion of the initial draft of the asset valuation is expected to take approximately 10 to 12 weeks.

Councilman McLemore initially objected to the contract, saying that it was a potential step toward the city eventually surrendering its independent status, but after further discussion, ultimately voted along with the rest of the council to approve the contract.

“I’m all for working with our neighbors, but I am also for our independence,” he said. “There are some people who would like to see us rescind our charter and go back to being a town under Southampton and I am vehemently opposed to that.”

The council also approved two budget amendments. The first, titled amendment 2017-08, appropriates a total of $166,825 to Franklin’s school division to reflect the award of local and federal grants. The division recently received $62,500 from the Obici Healthcare Foundation for a school psychologist and behavioral intervention; $23,325 from Franklin-Southampton Charities, $7,500 of which will be used for FHS DECA and $17,825 of which will be used for Future Problem Solving; $76,000 from Opportunity Inc. for the WIOA Youth Program; and $3,000 from International Paper for the division’s robotic’s program.

The second, titled 2017-09, appropriates a total of $38,070 for the city’s social services and general fund, also from recent grants. Of that total, $32,070 from the Obici Healthcare Foundation will be awarded to Franklin Social Services for Medicaid outreach and retention, which funds a staff person who assists people with initially qualifying and receiving medicaid services as well as retaining services for those already receiving benefits; $5,600 will be awarded to Franklin Fire and Rescue for fire and rescue equipment; and $400 will be awarded to the Franklin Police Department for supplies. Councilman Benny Burgess abstained from the vote on the grounds that his wife is a coach for the robotics program, but otherwise the vote was unanimous.

Council also received presentations by Chief Vince Holt, director of the city’s Emergency Services Department, and Amanda Jarratt, President and CEO of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc., on the Business Friendly Committee’s commercial rehabilitation loan program. Following Holt’s presentation, the council readopted the Hampton Roads Hazard Mitigation Plan, which was initially adopted by the city in 2006.

Jarratt presented on her progress in developing a commercial loan program for business owners to complete renovations to their facilities. According to Jarratt, the funds for the loan program would come from a total of $146,000 in loans repaid to the city since the late 1980s, which were stored in a separate account from the city’s general fund and only recently rediscovered following the city’s audit.

Jarratt added that the funds would be available to business owners throughout the city, not just in the downtown area, with a maximum loan amount of $35,000 per business and a minimum of $5,000.

The only citizens’ time speaker was Felicia Blow, a representative of the Lambda Psi Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, who said that she and her fellow members plan to get more involved in the local civic process and will attend future council, school board and Board of Supervisors meetings.

The next regular scheduled city council meeting will be on Monday, March 13, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers of city hall.