Franklin 2018 in review

Published 4:42 pm Saturday, December 29, 2018

Though winter had started in mid-December 2017, the first week of 2018 marked the real beginning of the season with several inches of snowfall, one of several such occasions. Also notable were the accompanying low temperatures, which had many residents asking the city for financial help in paying their power bills.

The city also saw some changes in leadership, such as the retirement of councilwoman Mary Hilliard, and her daughter, Wynndolyn, succeeding her. City manager Randy Martin announced his retirement, and FSEDI’s leader, Amanda Jarratt, will become the city manager next month.


• Thomas Councill gave away free emergency blankets in preparation of an arctic air mass that produced 5 inches of snow in the Western Tidewater region.

• During a work session, Downtown property owners expressed their opposition against a proposed property ordinance that would compel owners of properties deemed derelict to either renovate or demolish them.

• City of Franklin saw a 40 percent increase in firearm-related incidents in 2017 over 2016.

• Franklin Police Chief Phil Hardison presented in front of the city council that health insurance was the reason behind the shortage of officers.

• Sol Waite Rawls Jr., longtime Franklin resident and renowned businessman and philanthropist, died on Sunday, Jan. 28 at age 98.


• Teachers of FCPS gave mostly positive responses while participating in a survey. The school board approved some purchase orders which intended to improve student learning. Achieve 3000, which was used for S.P. Morton Elementary and J.P King Middle, intended to improve and accelerate literacy. Benchmark Software provides assessments and analytics at both aforementioned schools. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) membership fees were also approved.

• Franklin City Council discussed a revised version of it’s “derelict” property ordinance.

• City residents expressed their concerns and demanded answers regarding high electric bills at the city council meeting. Many customers stated that they had bills ranging in the upper hundreds of dollars, one even reportedly over $1,000.

  Council discussed the issue of complaints by residents regarding high electric bills after the spell of bitter cold that occurred in January.

• Council approves derelict property ordinance with a 5-2 vote on Feb 12. The punitive parts of the original ordinance were removed, leaving only the incentives for homeowners to fix up their properties, these being expedited and potentially refunded work permits and real estate tax abatements.

• Franklin residents were allowed to pay electric bills off in installments over the next two months without fear of penalties or power cutoffs.


• The Franklin City Council and the Southampton Board of Supervisors met to continue discussion over the possibility of consolidating water and sewer systems, an idea that has been circulating since 2012.

• Councilman Greg McLemore along with U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott participated in a town hall meeting at Paul D. Camp Community College’s Regional Workforce Development Center to discuss the unprecedentedly high February electric bills residents had receive from the city.

• Repair Tech, an industrial contracting firm, was honored as the 2017 Business of the Year by the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce during their 64th annual meeting. The Chamber also remembered Sol Waite Rawls Jr. who passed away on Jan. 28. Kim Marks, CEO of Southampton Memorial Hospital became the new Chamber board president and was presented the gavel by former board president Pam Lease.

• Superintendent Tamara Sterling proposed a plan to expand science, technology, engineering and math class in the city’s elementary and middle school and to increase the number of dual enrollment and career and technical education courses offered at the city’s high school.

• Mary Hilliard, the longest-serving current member of Franklin’s City Council, did not seek re-election come the election that happened in May.

• A historical marker, dedicated to the late educator and civic leader Pauline Cauthorne Morton, was unveiled near the Regional Workforce Development Center of Paul D. Camp Community College. Morton died in 2004 , a few days shy of her 92nd birthday.

• City Manager Randy Martin announced that a total of 226 Franklin Power and Light customers had taken advantage of the seven-month payment plan that was offered by the city after customers were concerned about the high electric bills. The city council also passed a resolution in support of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission’s opposition to offshore drilling on the grounds that it could impact naval operations.

• International Paper donated 15 acres of land in order to initiate the Riverwalk project in downtown Franklin. The Riverwalk will compose of a trail system, a fishing area, kayak/canoe/paddleboard launch, outdoor classroom, greenspace offering unstructured play, a botanica arboretum and a family picnic pavilion.

• The local Farm Fresh on Armory Drive announced its closure after Supervalu Inc announced that it would shutter 38 Farm Fresh stores. The Franklin location was not on the list of being sold to other grocery store companies such as Food Lion, Harris Teeter and Kroger.

• The historical marker was unveiled in memory of the late educator and activist Pauline Cauthorne Morton.

• Andrea Hall-Lenoard, current vice-chairwoman for the FCPS school board ran against incumbent Greg McLemore for Franklin City Council’s Ward 3 seat. She

• Franklin City Council discussed the sale of the Isle of Wight-Franklin Skating Rink building which closed in 2015. The city intended to market the skating rink property in particular and the city’s Airport Industrial Park in general for sale as land zoned for limited industrial purposes.

• City of Franklin scored poorly in the University of Wisconsin’s annual study concerning the health of cities and counties in each state. Each municipality was ranked on a scale of one to 133, with one being the best and 133 being worst. Franklin scored 127.


• Franklin City Council approved the sale of the former Isle of Wight – Franklin Skating Rink building to Kevin Roughton of Quality Aire, an HVAC business.

• FCPS Superintendent Tamara Sterling proposed $18.09 million for the 2018-2019 school year.

• The utility staff of the City of Franklin performed 105 complimentary energy audits and meter checks. They found out that the factors behind the extraordinarily high utility bills Franklin residents received were the inefficiencies of the heat sources of residents’ homes and the sub-freezing temperatures outside.


• Frank Rabil remains Mayor, Greg McLemore remains in Ward 3 and Wynndolyn Hilliard-Copeland becomes councilwoman for Ward 5.

• Firefighters were called to battle what was believed to be an electrical fire at Trinkets and Treasurers. The damage required its demolition.

• Franklin City Public Schools received level funding of $5.03 million from city council.


• High Street United Methodist Church choir recorded its first album.


• Franklin City Council approved a policy change from Franklin’s Department of Emergency Services which would bill for incidents in which a person is treated on-site by EMTs but declines transport by ambulance to a hospital. The change was due to a recent policy change announced in 2017 by Anthem/Blue Cross in which EMS bills for treatment without transport would be covered.


• After operating her downtown shop for 28 years, Alphabet Soup, owner Gerry Patnesky decided to try on retirement for size.

• Just a few doors down, Grey Fox Electronics had relocated to Suffolk. Adam Foxwell, owner, told the paper that he felt the town was dying. Neighboring business owners strongly disagreed with his view.

• S.P. Morton Elementary School welcomed a new principal, Phil Griffin. J.P. King Jr. Middle School also got a new school leader, Daren Parker.

• Franklin City Council approved $400,000 for the city school system.

• Three Franklin police officers received commendation for helping to save a man’s life by talking him out of committing suicide.

• City Manager Randy Martin announced that he would retire that month.

• Ivor’s Town Clerk, Jennifer Bumgardner, was arrested on charges of allegedly embezzling more than $22,000.

• The Virginia Department of Education released preliminary SOL results. Franklin achieved increased in passing rates for reading, writing, history, social sciences and mathematics. This gave school administrators reason to declare the city school system was fully accredited; this was confirmed by the news of the official results next month.

• Franklin residents on Meadow Lane argued against allowing Southampton Academy to use two houses in their neighborhood as dormitories for its international student.


• Taylor Williams, city attorney, was named interim deputy manager. Later that month, Clarence Monday took over that role as council sought a permanent city manager.

• A final report by Bellwether Management Solutions has concluded that the City of Franklin’s utility meters and its utility billing system are both accurate. The city contracted with Bellwether in April to perform a third-party, independent audit of its utility meters after numerous residents reported receiving utility bills in excess of $800, $900 and in some cases, even $1,000 during February.

• Andrea Hall-Leonard, vice chairwoman of the Franklin City School Board, was found guilty of election officer neglect duty during her hearing in Southampton County Circuit Court. She had been accused of not properly conducting the petition process by her competitor, incumbent Greg McLemore. Ultimately, the judge suspended her 12 months in jail, ordered her to pay fines and costs and do community service.


• Franklin Police Chief Phil Hardison announces his retirement to become effective at year’s end.

• Hampton Farms, which produces peanut butter, announced it was expanding its plant.

• The grant to continue work on a riverwalk beside the Blackwater was denied.


• A sinkhole developed on Second Avenue, which required road closures and repairs.


• With the help of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc. and the Isle of Wight Economic Development, Quality Aire was able to renovate the former county skating rink, rather than constructing a new building.

• Drelyn Ford, a senior at Franklin High School, ceremoniously signed his intent to play football for Wake Forest University next fall.

• Enviva announced it would be expanding its wood-pellet factory, investing $75.7M, which is also expected to create over 100 jobs.