City Council receives grant for Madison Street project

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Franklin’s City Council voted unanimously to appropriate funding from two outside sources into its budget for the current fiscal year during its regular scheduled meeting on Monday evening, and also voted to reduce the membership of its Beautification Commission from nine to seven.

The first source of funding appropriated was a Community Development Block Grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia in the amount of $533,575, intended for the city’s Madison Street neighborhood improvement program. This will fund the program for a second consecutive year.

According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, the majority of the funding will be used to improve stormwater drainage and sewer connections, and for general street improvements, with some funds being used for structural improvements to the remaining houses belonging to owners who have applied to participate in the program.

Martin added that to get the grant for the program’s second year, the city had to complete repairs to a certain number of houses during the program’s first year, which it did. The city is still accepting applications for new participants, he said. To qualify, residents must live on Madison, Washington or Roosevelt streets, meet income requirements and have one or more of the home improvement needs for which the funding can be used.

Because the city’s current fiscal year will end on June 30, the city will need to re-appropriate the funds at the start of fiscal year 2017-2018, but was advised by the state to get the funds now anyway.

Following Madison Street program administrator Donald Goodwin’s presentation to council on the city’s progress improving the houses in that area, Councilman Greg McLemore apologized publicly to Goodwin for opposing the program last year.

“I was very reluctant to support the Madison Street project before because I was misinformed that you were going to tear down houses,” McLemore said. “I have found that residents who are participating in the program are satisfied and I am considering participating in the program myself.”

Martin said that only two houses were torn down after being deemed too costly to repair, and that one of those has since been rebuilt and is now occupied. The residents of both properties were provided with public housing via the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority at no cost during construction.

The second source of funding the city appropriated was from flood insurance recovery for the city’s wastewater treatment plant in the amount of $9,263.

The reason the council reduced the number of members for its Beautification Commission from nine to seven was so that the advisory group could have a quorum. Prior to the change, the commission had ongoing attendance problems, resulting in their being unable to vote on any matter.

McLemore suggested also changing the commission’s bylaws to have its members be by ward rather than at large, but Mayor Frank Rabil said that he felt such a requirement would put the group in the same situation it was already facing, where there might be insufficient interest in participation from certain wards and the group would again not have a quorum. Martin said the city changed its social services board member requirements from being by ward to at large for the same reason.

The final action the council took for the night was to authorize Martin and City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV to sign a settlement agreement concerning a lawsuit brought by Capt. Mark Grizzard and Capt. Terry Bolten of the Franklin Fire Department on behalf of their local firefighters association. The settlement agreement specifies that the association will receive $9,908 to repay back dues and attorney’s fees. The suit concerned a personnel policy that City Council has since rescinded. Martin emphasized that no money was distributed to Grizzard or Bolten.

Citizens’ time speakers included Claressa Strawn of Southside RAM (Remote Area Medical) of Virginia, who spoke on a free medical, dental and vision care clinic coming to Emporia on June 24 and 25 at Greensville County High School.

Strawn said the clinic would offer tooth extractions, cleanings, fillings, general physicals, women’s health services, mental health services, eye exams, glaucoma testing and eye glasses made on-side.

She added that there were no income requirements, no age requirements, no insurance requirements, and that it was 100 percent free. Doors will open at 6 a.m. and tickets will be given out from 3 to 6 a.m., she said.

Thomas Councill Jr. asked the members of council to inform local residents of job opportunities associated with the Madison Street project and advocated greater partnership between the Ruth Camp Campbell library and Franklin’s schools to improve academic performance.