Mayor Joe Collins said he is optimistic that cost won’t rule out moving the town’s administration down Main Street to the Burrell Building, where the police department is now located. Under the proposal, the police department would locate in the current town hall on West Main Street.
The current town hall is a 50-year-old building with limited office and meeting space.
“By all accounts the siding is something we can work around,” Collins said of the Burrell Building.
At issue is whether the Burrell Building’s non-traditional siding – called EFIS, or exterior insulation and finish system – is structurally sound.
The Burrell Building was constructed in the mid-1990s, and has been a source of friction in the town since. The building was originally home to the Scottish Tartans Museum, which moved across Main Street to another location about 10 years ago. That left the Burrell Building, which has expansive parking, downtown access and potential public meeting space and restrooms, essentially unused.
In addition to housing the town’s police force, the Volunteer Resource Council has been given temporary office space in the building.
Tony Angel, chairman of the board of directors for the town’s Main Street program, said he believes that the Burrell Building could play a pivotal role in the downtown area.
“It would be a perfect anchor (for the town), particularly for that side of the street,” he said.
Also on the table as an option, albeit an unlikely one, is to move the town administration to a 12.7-acre tract known as the Whitmire property. The town purchased the property for $1.6 million a couple years ago. The intention at the time was to build a government complex, Collins said.
The value of the land – it fronts Highlands Road – and the need to keep the town hall downtown has essentially killed that proposal. Instead, Collins said, the property might be sold and the money used to pay for renovating the Burrell Building.
That would suit Suzanne Harouff, president of Books Unlimited in downtown Franklin, just fine. Harouff said she is indifferent to which end of Main Street is home to Town Hall as long as it remains downtown.
The Burrell Building, however, “has so much potential,” she said. “And I guess putting Town Hall closer to the businesses would be a plus.”
Also critical to downtown merchants is community access to the building, Harouff said.