City has potential buyer for skating rink property

Published 10:41 am Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Kevin Roughton, owner of the Franklin-based HVAC company Quality Aire, has expressed interest in purchasing the now-vacant Isle of Wight-Franklin Skating Rink building. A public hearing on the matter was held during Monday’s City Council meeting.

The building is located near the intersection of Walters Highway and Carrsville Highway in Isle of Wight County in the city-owned Airport Industrial Park. The skating rink closed in 2015 and is now officially back in the hands of the city following the voluntary termination of Franklin’s lease agreement with Isle of Wight County.

Several people spoke in favor of the proposed sale during the public hearing, including Amanda Jarratt, president of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc.; Lauren Harper, a commercial vendor of Farmers Bank and Franklin resident; and Jim Hart of Courtland.

“The building is in a state of disrepair and we have the opportunity to put it in the hands of a private business,” Jarratt said. “It is beyond its useful life as a recreational facility.”

Harper said she had been banking with Roughton since he formed the business in 2014 and described him as very diligent in achieving his business goals.

Hart said he was in favor of Franklin having the opportunity to go outside its borders for economic development in the region.

Roughton also spoke during the hearing and said his reason for wanting the building was because his business had outgrown its current location on Bower’s Road.

“It allows us to keep our business in the area and keep a building with a certain amount of history,” Roughton said. “Ninety percent of the renovation work will be done by local Franklin contractors.”

During the council’s discussion of the  matter following the hearing, Councilman Greg McLemore commended Roughton on the growth of his business but said that he wished the city would look into creating a new skating rink or other recreational facility for the city’s youth.

City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV also provided the council with some history on the facility at this time, stating that the land forming the industrial park had originally been deeded to the then-town of Franklin between 1947 and 1948 for use as part of the airport when the area was an active Army base.

Though no one spoke in opposition to the proposed sale, the council took no action on the matter that evening. City Manager R. Randy Martin explained that the city was still evaluating Roughton’s offer for the property and that it hopes to have a finalized contract available for a vote by the council’s next meeting.

In other business, Martin updated the council on his progress in securing a contractor to perform an audit of the city’s electrical equipment. He hopes to have the audit agreement finalized by the next council meeting, and the audit itself completed within 60 to 90 days after final approval is given.

This puts the anticipated audit completion date sometime in late June at the latest. The scope of the audit will include the contractor independently reading the city’s meters at the same time Franklin Power and Light’s staff is doing so, and then comparing the resulting figures to see if they match. The contractor will also test the accuracy of the city’s billing system to see if the electric usage reported on residents’ bills are the same as what was reported on the meters.