City Council OK’s grant to buy police car

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Franklin’s City Council voted 5-0 with two absent to appropriate a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Division for the purchase of a new police car during its regular scheduled meeting on Monday evening.

According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, the terms of the USDA grant require the city to match $20,500, which Franklin Police Capt. Tim Whitt said will be used to outfit the new vehicle with an in-car camera, radar and other emergency equipment.

“We have about 30 police cars now, about one third of our fleet has over 100,000 miles and some have over 130,000,” Martin said. “It’s important that we root out the older ones that have maintenance problems. They do a lot of idle time and in-town mileage that can take its toll. The other good thing is the newer vehicles are much more energy efficient in terms of gas mileage.”

Martin also presented an overview of the city’s proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 budget, which he said would be discussed in greater detail during work sessions on April 17, 18 and 20. The proposed budget, as it stands, specifies a 10.3 percent increase in health insurance costs for city employees, 3.5 net requests for new full-time employee positions in multiple departments, and full-year funding for all current vacant positions.

The proposed budget further specifies that the city’s solid waste fee will remain at $38 per month per house through January 2018, after which the fee may go down based on the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s finalized budget. The city’s solid waste budget for the coming fiscal year includes the purchase of a new garbage truck on a pay-as-you-go arrangement to replace its 12-year-old truck.

The city staff is not recommending any changes to water and sewer rates for the coming fiscal year. The city’s water and sewer budget will include a payment of $50,000 to the firm MFSG as the city’s portion of a shared utility services study with Southampton County to investigate the possibility of creating a Franklin-Southampton water-sewer authority. According to Martin, the payment should fund the study up to the point where the City Council can make a decision on whether to proceed with creating the authority.

The city staff is also not recommending any retail rate increases for its electric fund. A previously approved fuel adjustment rate increase of $6 per thousand kilowatts per month had already taken effect as of the beginning of this April.

One of the larger funding requests the city will have to address in its budget for the coming fiscal year is a request by Franklin City Public Schools Interim Superintendent Kelvin Edwards Sr. for an additional $350,000 to fund the division’s proposed roughly $17 million budget. Though the City Council has yet to formally consider Edwards’ request, Mayor Frank Rabil said at the end of a work session with the school board on March 20 that, “We don’t have it.”

Martin said that the council’s appropriation of approximately $494,000 to the school division last fall might also have an impact on the amount of funding the city has available for the coming fiscal year. In late November 2016, the council gave the division $494,643 in unspent carryover funds from the school board’s fiscal year 2014-2015 to cover a $480,000-plus deficit the division discovered for its 2015-2016 fiscal year.

The school board is expected to formally adopt the division’s proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 budget during their meeting on April 27, with City Council considering action on the request during its May 22 meeting.

During citizens’ time, William Banks, who lives on Artis Street, asked the council to address the repeated crime incidents at the nearby Dorchester Apartments.

Rabil concluded the meeting by asking everyone to take more pride in the streets of Franklin and not throw trash out of windows.

“It’s not just in one neighborhood, it’s all through town, and it all ends up in the river,” he said.

The next regular scheduled City Council meeting will be on Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers of city hall.