Franklin: 2017 in review

Published 1:04 pm Saturday, December 30, 2017

The city of Franklin saw a lot of new faces throughout 2017, particularly in the administration of its public schools. Its city council started off the year by appointing a new school board, and almost immediately, the new board was tasked with selecting a new superintendent, which they did in late April, offering the position to Tamara Sterling.

At the post-secondary education level, Paul D. Camp Community College saw Angela Lawhorne join its ranks as director of workforce development in March and the official inauguration of Dr. Daniel Lufkin as its eighth president in October. The college also hired David Mitchell as its first baseball coach and athletic director, and signed over 20 students representing more than 15 different high schools as its inaugural Hurricanes baseball team.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Qualls, formerly of Georgia, relocated to the city with his wife, Elizabeth,  in April to become Franklin Baptist Church’s new pastor, and was formally installed in September. And, while not new to the city, Bobby Cutchins, founder of Bobby’s Tire and Auto Care, was elected to city council’s ward 6 seat in May. Also, his son, Robby, was named one of Hampton Roads’ “Top 40 under 40” entrepreneurs of the year in October.

The city also had several notable deaths in 2017, including Deacon Elvin Vaughan, former city councilman, school board member and founder of Vaughan Funeral Home on South Street, who passed away in February, and Haynes Byerly, the former publisher of The Tidewater News, who passed away in June.

Additional notable headlines throughout the year for Franklin included:

  1. Electric bills still arriving late. Three months after the City of Franklin migrated its utility billing system to new computer software, numerous city residents are saying they still have yet to receive an electric bill on time. The issue was discussed during Monday’s City Council meeting [July 24] after several council members said they had received complaints from their constituents.

According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, the city’s utility bills are typically mailed between the seventh and the 10th of each month, and are due by the 20th.

  1. Hayden project to resume. The project of renovating the historic Hayden High School into the Hayden Village Center has gotten new life. This confirmation comes through John N. Skirven, chief executive officer of Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia.

“We were able to form a partnership with a developer who has experience in renovating historic buildings,” Skirven said on Thursday [Aug. 10.]

The plan of converting the former school into a senior residential and community center goes back as early as 2012 when the Franklin Planning Commission gave its recommendation. The project gained momentum to the point of a construction crew hired to begin clearing out debris of the school basement in spring of 2015.

But work halted in May 2015. Skirven told The Tidewater News a year later that was due in part to the sudden death of William Wade, who he described as a key member in the project. Another reason was that financing was withdrawn by the end of September that same year. He also said then that efforts to seek monetary backing were ongoing.

  1. Jesse Jackson visits Franklin. The Rev. Jesse Jackson — civil rights activist, Baptist minister and former Democratic candidate for president — visited Franklin on Tuesday afternoon [Sept. 19] as part of his Healing and Rebuilding Virginia Bus Tour. Jackson addressed a large audience in the Franklin Sportsman’s Association building on South Street.

Accompanying him was Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-75th.)

  1. City considering legislation for derelict properties. Franklin’s City Council is considering adopting legislation that would both incentivize and compel owners of properties deemed derelict to repair or demolish them.

The matter was discussed during a work session held one hour before the council’s regular scheduled meeting on Monday.

The draft ordinance defines “derelict” to mean a residential or non-residential building or structure, whether or not construction has been completed, which might endanger the public’s health, safety or welfare and, for a continuous period in excess of six months, has been vacant, boarded up in accordance with the building code and not lawfully connected to electric service from a utility service provider or not lawfully connected to any required water or sewer service from a utility service provider.

Should the city deem a building to be derelict, the proposed ordinance would require the city to notify the owner and require the owner to submit to the city a plan, within 90 days of notice, to demolish or renovate the building to address the items that endanger the public’s health, safety or welfare.

  1. Investigation of shootings continues. Franklin Police Department detectives continue their searches in both the homicide that took place on Sunday [Dec. 17], as well as the double shootings on Tuesday [Dec. 19.] As yet, suspects in either case have not been found.

Officers had responded on Dec. 17 at 7:15 p.m. to a report of shots heard in the 500 block of West Second Avenue. There the police found two vehicles that had been hit by bullets.

A victim was also reported to have been seen limping away… Later, the body of a Franklin man was found in water adjacent to West Second Avenue.

On Wednesday, [Capt. Tim Whitt] reported that city police were again called to a report of gunfire, this time at 10:19 p.m. on Dec. 19 in the 300 block of Madison Street.

Editor’s note: on Friday, Dec. 22, that same week, a third shooting was reported, this time in the Dorchester Square Apartments.Whitt said at the time that this third incident marks the 71st firearm-related incident the FPD has responded to in 2017.