Council amends budget, recognizes Franklin boy

Published 9:54 am Friday, April 28, 2017

Franklin’s City Council voted unanimously to amend its fiscal year 2016-2017 budget to approve the purchase of two four-wheel-drive inspection vehicles for the Franklin-Southampton Department of Community Development. Council members also appropriated grants for the city’s police department and school division during their regular scheduled meeting on Monday evening.

The two vehicles, which collectively could cost $60,000, would be used to meet the service demands of the recently approved 100-megawatt solar project located in Southampton County between Newsoms and Boykins. According to Donald Goodwin, director of community development, one vehicle would be a pickup truck and the other, an Explorer.

“We’re in the process of transitioning to all four-wheel-drive vehicles because of the terrain we have to traverse in the county,” he said. “We’re still using vehicles that came from social services 10 years ago.”

Councilman Greg McLemore asked Goodwin if any of the electricity generated would be used for residential houses. Goodwin said that the energy generated would be enough to power 20,000 homes but that it would not go directly to those homes in the area. Rather, it would be fed into the grid.

The second budget amendment appropriated $5,508 for the city’s police department via a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant for the purchase of police equipment with the city matching $612 for a total award of $6,120, and also included the appropriation of $220,663,75 for Franklin City Public Schools to reflect the award of a School Improvement Grant for S.P. Morton Elementary School.

The council also voted unanimously to renew its Local Choice Anthem employer health insurance policy for fiscal year 2017-2018, which will raise premiums by 10.3 percent and will raise the lowest deductible offered from $250 to $500. The city has agreed to absorb 5.3 percent of the premium increase with the remaining 5 percent passed on to city employees.

According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, the change in the lowest deductible plan offered should not affect many employees, as a majority (59 percent) are already enrolled in the $1,000 deductible plan. Those employees will not see a change in their deductible if they elect to continue their current coverage. Any changes in premiums or deductibles will take effect on July 1 of this year.

Also during the meeting, Franklin Chief of Police Phil Hardison gave special recognition to Karter Thorpe, a 6-year-old Franklin boy, who is credited with saving a man’s life recently when he spotted the man lying on the ground at Lowe’s when his grandmother had made a wrong turn.

“There is no question in my mind that this gentleman is alive today thanks to the immediate care he received and the attention of Karter Thorpe here,” Hardison said, presenting Thorpe with a commemorative plaque. “No emergency services would have been dispatched as soon as they were if it were not for Karter.”

Hardison also recognized the two dispatchers who responded to Thorpe’s grandmother’s 911 call, Natalia Bauphin and Kay Halverson, and Franklin Police Corporal Kevin Muse, who was the first responder to arrive at the scene, as well as an anonymous woman who administered CPR to the man until police arrived and then left the scene.

The meeting also included a special 1-hour presentation prior to the start of the regular meeting by Congressman Bobby Scott, who represents Virginia’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since Jan. 3 of this year, the Third District now includes the city of Franklin.

Scott provided the council and audience with an update on recent legislation, including House Joint Resolution 57, which he said rolled back a Department of Education rule concerning civil rights in the Every Student Succeeds Act, and House Joint Resolutions 66 and 67, which he said rolled back two retirement savings rules requiring financial advisors to give retirement fund advice in the best interest of clients rather than their own. HJ Resolution 66 has not yet been taken up by the senate and HJ Resolution 67 was signed into law by President Donald Trump on April 13.

He also discussed Trump’s executive orders prioritizing energy development on federal lands, ordering a review of the Clean Power Plan and withdrawing a presidential memorandum by his predecessor, Barack Obama, which directed federal agencies to account for climate change in their planning.

He then discussed Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and reiterated points he had made previously at a Town Hall meeting at Paul D. Camp Community College’s Regional Workforce Center in late February. Scott said that before the ACA, people could be denied coverage or charged exorbitant premiums if they had pre-existing conditions. Further, employer-based coverage had been declining for years and those who lost job-based coverage had few or no options.

He added that the ACA eliminated discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, rescission of benefits, and annual or lifetime limits on coverage, and that over the past seven years, over 20 million previously uninsured Americans have gained health insurance coverage and more than 11 million seniors have saved more than $23.5 billion on prescription drugs.

Councilman Benny Burgess asked Scott if the ACA could be changed to address retroactive penalties should a person receive a last-minute change in income at the end of a year. Scott agreed that that was one issue that he felt Congress should investigate.

“But the entire focus has been on repeal,” he said. “Our [party] leaders have said if you’re trying to make it worse, like the last one where 24 million people lose insurance, we’re not going to work with you. We’re going to fight it tooth and nail, but if you want to try to make it better, we’ll work with you.”

The next regular scheduled city council meeting will be Monday, May 8 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of city hall.