Franklin council, mayor sworn into office
Franklin’s new and returning councilmembers were recently sworn into office and immediately started conducting business during the December regular meeting.
The board thanked outgoing councilmember Patti Abel for her service. Abel served one term on the board and decided not to run for re-election.
New councilmember David Culpepper claimed Abel’s open seat while incumbent Barbara McRae won re-election for a second term on the board. Incumbent councilmember Billy Mashburn, who served on the board for 25 years, won re-election but passed away after a long battle with cancer just days before Election Day.
According to state statute, the town board can appoint someone to the vacant post in Mashburn’s absence for a nonpartisan municipal election, but the issue was not on the town’s agenda for the December meeting.
Angela Moore, a candidate who was the next highest vote-getter after Mashburn, addressed the vacancy during the public comment portion of the town meeting.
“I know the board faces the daunting task of filling the vacant seat. For those (board members) I haven’t been able to get a hold of I’m very interested in the seat,” she said.
This is the fourth time Moore has run for the town board and the closest she’s gotten to being elected with only 16 votes short of Mashburn. Even though the law allows the board to appoint whomever they want to fill the seat, Moore encouraged the board to respect the wishes of the electorate by appointing her to the position.
Mayor Bob Scott, who ran unopposed this year, was sworn in for a third term. Before moving into the regular agenda items, Scott shared a State of the Union type of address with the councilmembers regarding the issues ahead of them. He thanked the town employees for going above and beyond to make the town a wonderful place to live. He also reminded the board of his priority of being open and transparent with the public.
“I am so very proud that this board has had very few closed meetings in the past four years and I would encourage the board to always find reasons not to go behind closed doors but find reasons to conduct our business before the public,” Scott said. “As such, I will work to see that the town adheres to the North Carolina Open Meetings and Public Records laws. We, as a board, exist to conduct the public’s business. And in that vein, I would remind you of the high ethical standards the public demands of us.”
Scott expressed concerns over the status Angel Medical Center, a Mission Health affiliate, and the new replacement hospital being proposed. The current hospital is located right downtown while AMC and Mission are looking at a U.S. 441 location for the new $45 million project.
“I welcome this but at the same time I am still not clear on what may happen with the old facility,” he said. “Mission Health has closed our Labor Delivery Unit and at this time I am worried about the future of our medical care as this is another example of what is happening nationally to health care at the expense of small communities such as ours.”
Also high on the mayor’s priority list are adjustments to downtown parking, adoption of a nuisance noise ordinance and finding the best use of the town’s Whitmire property — all of which have been discussed extensively by the board in 2017.
Municipalities are getting less financial assistance from the state and federal government, Scott said, and towns are also seeing more philosophical differences in the way the state and federal governments want them to operate. Towns are receiving less Powell Bill funds to maintain streets and sidewalks, lost the ability to collect business privilege license revenue and are seeing far-reaching consequences of state and national cutbacks for general and human services.
“On the state level we have seen our right to involuntary annexation taken away, water, sewer systems and airports threatened and a move to make municipal elections partisan,” Scott said. “At present, most of the towns and cities are non-partisan and this relieves us of having to make decisions based on political affiliations.”
Scott warned the board and residents of a looming tax increase for the town to be able to address a backlog of deferred maintenance costs. He suggested the board seriously consider a quarter-cent sales tax increase that other towns and counties have passed.
To maintain the town’s current level of fire service, he said the town would probably need to look at a 2 to 3 cent increase in the fire tax.
Scott called for the board to hold a special planning meeting in January to talk about its vision for the town in 2018. Lastly, he encouraged board members to take advantage of the School of Government and NC League of Municipalities training, seminars and conferences.
“Thank each of you for working diligently for Franklin. We have some tough issues facing us,” Scott said in closing.
Board meetings get new start time
The Franklin Town Council voted unanimously to change the time of its regular monthly meetings. The town board will continue to meet on the first Monday of the month at town hall but starting in January will meet at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.