Franklin residents weigh in on recent ranking

Published 6:57 pm Friday, May 24, 2019



Following a recent report that ranked Franklin as Virginia’s worst city to live in, the city council gave residents the opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts and feelings about their city during a town hall meeting. This had actually been organized as the result of a council retreat in early May. Over 100 people showed up at Thursday night’s meeting, though only 11 people spoke. While the majority of those who signed up expressed their love for Franklin, they also emphasized that improving the city’s quality of life should be a top priority for the city council.

“We’re losing our youth,” said Ray Smith, “They go to college or join the military, and they find quality of life in other places and they don’t come back. My children have done that as well as your children and the people in the audience’s children.We need to stop this behavior. We need to provide things that millennials want today so that they can stay here. We would not have any future if our youth continues to leave.”

Jeanette Austin asked about what would the city do when it comes to creating jobs and adding more things to do in the city, especially for young people.

“Do we have anything to offer for our youth in the City of Franklin? Instead of everything just leaving Franklin, what are we going to do about having different clothing and other things like that? It seems that everything wants to leave Franklin. I believe that one way we can keep our people in Franklin is to provide jobs and allowing businesses to come in.”

Council members weighed in on Austin’s questions and concerns. Councilman Greg McLemore believes that elected officials should be responsible for their involvement in improving Franklin’s economic development.

“In the nine years that I’ve served on council, it has been said and stamped that the responsibility of economic development falls primarily on the agency, and our agency is the Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc.,” McLemore said, “However, I feel that it’s our responsibility as your elected officials to ensure that businesses come to this city. I think when we leave it up to someone else, they’ll do the best they can. Nevertheless, they’re not the ones that you voted for. They’re not the ones you expect to produce. I’ve run across business owners who said that Councilman [Linwood] Johnson has tried to get their business open in Franklin, and that’s commitment. We need jobs that entice young people that deal with tech and modern things as well as creating things. Jobs should be a priority for every elected official.”

Patrice Jones also expressed that the city needs more jobs and businesses.

“I’ve lived in Franklin most of my life, and there is no growth,” she said, “I have a young man coming up in my household, and I don’t want him lost to the streets. So I think we do need to upgrade and do better in bringing in jobs and bringing in retail such as different stores, restaurants and hotels. We have three hotels that I can’t even have my family to come in from out of town to stay. You reckon for us to give our revenue to another city versus of our city. We have the same three schools that I went through since I was here. We need some new schools.”

Jones also expressed concern over light bills.

“It’s crazy, and something needs to be done about that. How is the City getting funding when we don’t have any businesses coming in? My answer to that is that light bill. I agree that we do need to work as as a team, but the city council needs to do better.”

Councilwoman Wynndolynn Copeland agreed with Jones regarding the bills

“I agree that something needs to be done in regards to these utilities. We will be looking at that, and hopefully, we will work as a team.”

McLemore also elaborated on how businesses come into cities.

“I agree, but in order to have chains, franchise businesses, hotels, these businesses do their homework before they come into the city. It comes back to what Johnson said about branding. For nine years, I have been pushing for branding along solar city lines, approaching something that people wanted to be a part of that is small growing, but they have a plan. If you ask individually seven different council members where do we plan on being in the next 10 years, I guarantee that you’ll get seven different answers.”

Andrea Hall-Leonard of the Franklin City Public School Board expressed her gratitude to various people who have served in the school district and also shared with the council some positive highlights regarding the school district.

“We are proud of the fact that all three of our schools are accredited after seven years. Our city school board, we are very proud for the increased collaboration with city council. Over 75 students from all three of our schools were inducted in the National Honor Society. It was amazing to see our students and their families celebrating academic achievement. The FCPS Board Food & Nutrition Program’s family style dining was featured on WTKR News Channel 3. On behalf of our school board members, we express our sincere gratitude to City Council for not cutting the schools. This summer we have students from all three schools who are scheduled to attend STEM programs to help our students increase in CTE and career readiness. Some of the schools to name a few are Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary.”

Hall-Leonard also made a few suggestions on how the city can improve:

“I propose that we increase intergenerational programs so that all persons can can learn from each other, and by doing that, it can also increase our early learning. We must tell our own story, positive stories in our community. Share WTKR’s link about our family style dining. You can see our students in family style dining. Teaching them manners and etiquette with table cloths and serving one another. We are appreciative of our community partners such as Bronco Federal Credit Union, Mt. Olive Food Pantry, Celebration Church and Amanda Jarrett. Can we all just be able to work together, increasing more positive collaboration?”

City Manager Amanda Jarratt shared with The Tidewater News that she was impressed with the outcome of the Thursday night’s town hall.

I was thrilled with the turnout, as well as the thoughts, comments and feedback shared by those in attendance. It was an excellent opportunity for us all to hear from the community. I am hopeful that even more people will decide to attend and participate at our next Town Hall scheduled for June 11, at 7 p.m., at the Workforce Development Center.”

If anyone was unable to attend Thursday night’s town hall meeting, the video can be viewed on the city’s Facebook page called “City of Franklin – Municipality” as well as their YouTube Channel, “City of Franklin, VA”.