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Coweeta leads research on watershed dynamics

Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, an experimental research station for the U.S. Forest Service outside Franklin, celebrated its 75th anniversary this month.

The 5,500-acre forested basin in southern Macon County has been fertile ground for research into how forests behave — and more specifically how the creeks within a watershed respond under different conditions.

“Cutting-edge research at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory has led to the development and adoption of ‘best management practices’ that promote cleaner and more abundant water supplies for people in southern Appalachia and beyond,” said Jim Reaves, director of the Forest Service Southern Research Station.

Since its establishment in 1934, Coweeta scientists have examined different aspects of forest ecology and conducted several, landmark studies that have changed the way forests are managed.

From the best way to protect streams from erosion when building roads to projecting the fallout from climate change, much of what we know today about stream flow generation on steep forest lands has resulted from the work of Coweeta scientists.

Franklin voters stick with familiar faces

Not one face is changing in Franklin’s local government despite close contests for mayor and aldermen.

In a neck-and-neck race, Franklin Mayor Joe Collins beat out Alderman Bob Scott by only 14 votes to reclaim the office for another two years.

All three incumbents, Jerry Evans, Billy Mashburn, and Sissy Pattillo, held on to their seats for the next four years, edging out challengers Ron Winecoff and Angela Moore. Scott retains his board seat.

Collins and Pattillo interpreted the election results as a vote of confidence by Franklin residents.

“We have a board that in the last two years has done more toward the future of Franklin than any board has in any two-year period I can remember,” said Collins. “The town can expect we’ll move further ahead.”

“It was the quietest election I’ve even seen,” Pattillo said. “Usually when an election is quiet we’ve done something right.”

Meanwhile, Scott, whose campaign sounded the call for a more open and participatory government, said he would make the most of his two years left on the board.

“The mayor certainly didn’t get a landslide,” said Scott. “The voters have spoken, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to quiet down. I’ve got two more years and I’m going to give it my all.”

Collins acknowledged that Scott spent a lot of time and energy in his campaign, effectively using the Internet to reach voters.

“It was a close race, closer than a lot of people thought it would be,” said Collins. “Bob worked very hard.”

With an alderman and a mayor in stiff competition, tensions might carry over into Collins’ next term. During his campaign, Scott accused Collins of not always being forthcoming as mayor specifically by leaving him out of the loop on decisions like a three-year contract with CGI Communications to produce a series of streaming online videos about Franklin.

Collins retorted that communication is a two-way street and not every decision requires board approval now that the position of town manager has been created.

Moving forward, the board will have to decide what to do with the 13-acre Whitmire property on the east side of town and plans for a public park commemorating the historic Nikwasi mound.

While Collins said he favors a mixed-use development that will rush the Whitmire property back into the town’s tax base, Scott said he’d rather see the town hold on to the property to develop a museum, civic center, or a park.

Collins acknowledged that the pieces haven’t fallem into place on the Nikwasi park development but added that the project still had broad support.

“I think everybody in the end would love to see a park,” said Collins.

Meanwhile, Scott said the town should take a step back, do a feasibility study, and make sure the committee spearheading the project is inclusive and transparent throughout the planning process.

After Scott’s two years are up, he says he’ll officially retire his political career and return to his roots as a newspaper writer.

“I’ll be 71 years old,” said Scott. “I’ve learned a lot. I just don’t think politics are for me. I’ll go back to writing some commentary ... probably something scathing.”



Joe Collins (I)    255

Bob Scott    241


Town board

Seats up for election:    3

Total seats on board:    6

Billy Mashburn (I)    350

Sissy Pattillo (I)    313

Jerry Evans (I)    241

Ron Winecoff    234

Angela Moore    225

Registered voters:    2,651

In the running

The Town of Franklin has a town board with six aldermen/alderwomen and a mayor who votes only to break ties. Mayors serve for two years, while aldermen/alderwomen serve for four. This year, the mayor and three aldermen/alderwomen are up for election.


Mayor — pick one

Joe Collins, 54, real estate attorney

Collins is finishing up his sixth year as mayor. He served as alderman for six years before that. Collins says he’s pleased with the switch to a government with a town manager and placing the new town hall in a remodeled building downtown rather than in East Franklin.

“I’m very proud and want us to keep it going.”


Bob Scott, 68, retired law enforcement officer and long-time newspaper reporter

Scott has served as alderman for almost six years. He emphasizes his support for open government and wants to get the public involved with monthly New England-style town hall meetings.

“In my mind, the government exists only to conduct the public’s business.”


Aldermen — pick three


Jerry Evans, 54, manager of Terminix Service

Evans has been an alderman for 12 years, with two of those as vice mayor. He said he’d like to see an economic development committee formed to keep money in Franklin and attract new businesses.

“Unless the town can help attract new businesses, there’s no opportunity for our children and grandchildren to live and work in Franklin.”


Billy Mashburn, 57, paralegal

Mashburn is Franklin’s vice mayor and has served as alderman for 12 years. He said that the town must be diligent about where it spends its tax dollars.

“Up to now the town is in pretty good financial shape. We haven’t taken a hit like other towns have.”


Angela Moore, 28, stay-at-home mom

Moore worked as Franklin’s GIS analyst for almost two years. She said she wants to get more people involved in local government and have the town lower its taxes. Moore said the town should only handle infrastructure, including roads, water and sewer.

“They shouldn’t be doing a whole lot other than that ... There’s a lot we can cut back on.”


Sissy Pattillo, 69, retired teacher/counselor

Pattillo has served as alderwoman for four years. She also serves on the Angel Medical Center Foundation board. Pattillo is a third-generation resident of the town with children and grandchildren living in the town.

“I have a vested interest here. Franklin has made great strides, and I would like to help keep that momentum going.”


Ron Winecoff, 69, real estate agent

Winecoff is the chairman of Angel Medical Center’s Board of Trustees and the county chairman of the investment and development committee. Winecoff said he wants to improve downtown and see the town make financial adjustments to accommodate for the recession.

“Government has trouble saying no to people, cutting down personnel and cost. I have no problem saying no.”

Collins, Scott battle for mayor’s post in Franklin

Tensions are rife as Franklin Alderman Bob Scott and Mayor Joe Collins butt heads over the prize of a mayor spot up for election. Scott is seeking to trade his two remaining years as alderman for two years as mayor instead.

Collins joked at last week’s forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Macon County that voting for him would be a win-win situation for everyone involved .

“If you vote for me, you’ve still got Bob,” said Collins. “If you vote for Bob, you won’t have me.”’

Scott countered that claim, pointing out that if he were elected mayor, there’d then be a vacant seat on the town board. Scott said he’d love to see Collins take over.


Putting the citizenry first

At the heart of Scott’s campaign is a call for more open and participatory government. Scott would like to institute regular office hours to hear his constituents’ concerns as well as begin monthly New England-style town hall meetings and a newsletter to keep all citizens abreast of the town’s business.

Scott already has a head start in reaching out to voters, garnering 117 respondents to his survey about the town. The survey asked for opinions on a range of topics, including whether the town should adopt the National Flood Plan, build its own civic center, or prohibit new fast food chain restaurants, just to name a few.

“Six years ago, I had no thought of running for mayor,” said Scott. “However, I’ve seen a shift in town government — a lack of communication with all board members and input from public. I plan to keep everyone involved.”

Scott, who worked as a newspaper reporter for about 20 years, said he deeply supports open meeting and public records laws.

But in Collins’ view, he and the town board are already honoring open meeting laws.

Collins said public input in most, but not all, areas is welcome.

“I believe in public input, but there are some issues, such as second water source, which you don’t put out to public opinion. It is the job of the board to do its homework and address the situation.”

Scott said even as an alderman, he’s sometimes left out of the loop.

For example, Scott learned about a 3-year contract with CGI Communications to produce a series of streaming online videos about Franklin by stumbling across a letter from the mayor on the town’s Web site.

According to Collins, that contract was discussed with the town manager and did not require board approval. He said the town manager is very “hands-on” and takes care of matters that the board previously handled.

“It is very much in the town’s best interest for that to happen because we found ourselves dealing with minutiae,” Collins said. “We just cannot get to the point where we have to discuss each and every aspect of our day-to-day operations.”

Discussions about hiring an economic development consultant were “hush-hush,” according to Scott, even though the issue eventually came to a vote.

Collins said an overall lack of communication can’t all be pinned on one person. “It’s a two-way street,” said Collins. “Any member of the board can pick up the phone and call anybody else.”

Scott retorted that he’s been very forthcoming with all board members.

“Anything I do, I send an e-mail out to the rest of the board,” said Scott.

Collins said with six members on the town board and a mayor, town leaders will naturally relate more to some than to others, but when it comes to meetings, everything is out in the open.

Alderwoman Sissy Pattillo said at the forum that citizens are always welcome at town meetings since board members will listen with open ears.

“I don’t think we have hidden agendas,” said Pattillo. “We don’t hide in the closet.”

Angela Moore, candidate for alderwoman, said, however, she did not learn about how the town operated until she worked for Franklin as a GIS analyst.

Moore suggests featuring better explanations of items on meeting agendas and perhaps creating a webpage to publicize those agendas early on.

“So often we hear about everything in the newspaper the day after it’s been done,” said Moore. “We can’t do a whole lot about it then.”

Other issues brought up at the forum included the possibility of a flood ordinance, ideas for how to use the 13-acre Whitmire property the town owns in East Franklin, and town ownership of the Nikwasi mound.

Town leaders hope to buy two parcels adjacent to the mound to eventually create a park, but they have not yet acquired grants to buy the property. Collins said earlier that the town ownership could be given up to attract those grants but backtracked after being criticized by some for his standpoint.

Scott, Alderman Billy Mashburn, Alderwoman Sissy Pattillo, and Alderman candidate Ron Winecoff all agree that the Nikwasi mound should stay under town ownership.

Collins now says it is a “priority” to keep the Indian mound under the “trust and control” of the Town of Franklin.

“Never do I want the town not to have the final say on the use of the Indian mound property,” said Collins.

Scott said he is unequivocally against giving up the mound.

“I would not, under any circumstances, allow that mound to go under any ownership other than the town,” Scott said.

Pattillo was one of the children who helped raise money to buy the mound for the town.

“The mound is ours, and it’s not going anywhere,” Pattillo said.

Almost all candidates said they supported establishment of the park but hoped to see it financed by grants rather than the town. They said, however, the town could pay for the park’s maintenance.

Moore was strongly against any town money going toward the park.

“I just don’t think we should pay for it,” said Moore.

Vice mayor aspirant to challenge incumbent for mayor

Two-term Franklin Alderman Bob Scott has wanted a turn as vice mayor going back a while — an honor that traditionally rotates among aldermen. But a couple of years ago, Mayor Joe Collins reportedly told him, Bob, “ain’t gonna happen.”

So instead, Scott’s gunning for the mayor’s spot.

Collins, who’s completing his third two-year term, said he wasn’t taken unawares by the news of Scott’s challenge. “It’s a small town; you hear things,” Collins said. “I look forward to the race and all, it’s not a surprise. Certainly it’s a choice he’s free to make.”

Collins didn’t want to get into personalities. Nor is the vice mayor episode necessarily what’s mainly driving Scott’s run — but his issue with the mayor’s leadership style is clearly part of the picture.

Collins has no official say in whether or when Scott might have been tapped as vice mayor. The board as a whole name one of their own to the post. But Collins seemed to have had an inside line on whether the board had any interest in elevating Scott.

That relates to one of Scott’s ongoing beefs with Collins. He charges that the mayor communicates selectively, outside of meetings, with favored members of the town board — and he isn’t part of that circle.

“I’m learning things on the streets that I should have been told” by Collins, he said.

Collins said he’s not sure there is such a circle.

According to a Feb. 18 article in The Smoky Mountain News, Collins visited Scott at his home one Sunday afternoon a year and a half earlier and, regarding Scott’s chances of becoming vice mayor, said it wasn’t in the cards. In the article, Collins confirmed a conversation was held, but declined to comment on its content.

In addition to believing in a more inclusive board, Scott said a major element of his platform in running for mayor is his advocacy of open government. He said, despite state open meetings and public records laws, too many government entities in Western North Carolina still hide behind closed doors too often — and without proper basis, he believes.

“I bet most public officials aren’t familiar” with those government sunshine provisions, he said. For example, too many deliberative bodies don’t give a specific enough reason why they are going into closed session — and even when they do, it is often not a valid one.

Collins said his re-election run for mayor is based on his belief that things are going well, so why change the lineup? “We’ve got a good leadership group in place. Things are running in a way I feel comfortable with,” he said. “We have a lot of projects that are under way, and if the citizens choose to entrust me with the next two years, I’d feel honored and do the best that I could. It’s a choice the voters get to make.”

Collins said other than the vice mayor issue and “Slategate” flap, he couldn’t think of acrimonious divisions nor even important policy differences between himself and Scott. In the Slategate controversy, Collins was accused of improperly allowing a former resident of the Whitmire property, acquired by the town as a possible new town hall site, to take slate from the property. Collins was caught in the middle when other aldermen blamed him for allowing it, although Collins said he didn’t agree to the amount that was taken.

Scott, too, didn’t cite any significant policy differences with the mayor, but pointed to his own concern “to see that we protect basic town services so that economic growth is not hindered” in the tough economy.

“I believe town employees are our most valuable asset and we need a pay plan and a personnel policy for them,” he said.

If Scott should lose the mayor’s race, he still has two years of his four-year board term to finish out, while if Collins loses, he’s out. Aldermen have four year terms while the mayor’s seat is up every two years.

The seats of aldermen Carolyn “Sissy” Pattillo, Jerry Evans and Billy Mashburn, who is currently vice mayor, are also up this year. They did not return messages seeking to confirm whether they will be running for their offices again.

Franklin followed the law by leaking Duke’s counteroffer

The town of Franklin acted appropriately by making public the terms of an out-of-court settlement offer extended to the town by Duke Energy.

The offer was aimed at getting the town of Franklin and Jackson County to drop their opposition to Dillsboro dam removal. Duke Energy hoped the offer would stave off a move by Jackson to use eminent domain to seize the dam and adjacent shoreline for the creation of a park.

Duke Energy insisted its offer should remain confidential, but the town of Franklin disseminated a copy of the offer to the media last week.

“They did it right,” said Mike Tadych, an attorney with the North Carolina Press Association who is an expert in public record and open meeting laws. “It would be illegal to enter into a confidential settlement agreement.”

Franklin leaders voted unanimously to reject Duke’s offer. Jackson County leaders likewise rejected it by a vote of 4 to 1.

Duke Energy said its offer was borne out of court-ordered mediation talks, which are supposed to be confidential.

It’s different when elected bodies are involved, however, Tadych said. Sunshine laws mandate openness by elected government bodies and trump any claim of confidentiality.

Attorney-client privilege entitled the town of Franklin and Jackson County to discuss Duke’s offer behind closed doors — which they both did. But once they formally voted on the offer, attorney-client privilege evaporated.

“As soon as it became water under the bridge, it became a public record,” Tadych said.

Elected leaders cannot keep what they are voting on secret. It would be akin to Congress voting on a bill, but not telling the public what was in it.

“You cannot vote by reference,” Tadych said.

Performing arts center to open in Franklin

When Phil Drake puts his mind to something, there’s little he can’t achieve. Drake’s company, Drake Enterprises, is one of the largest private employers west of Asheville, and, it seems, owns half the businesses in the region, including The Athlete’s Foot, Dalton’s Christian Bookstore, Dnet Internet Services, Drake Software, the Franklin Golf Course and the Fun Factory.

So while the idea of constructing a 1,500-seat performing arts theater in a rural region like Western North Carolina might seem over the top, leave it to Drake to pull it off. And that’s just what Drake and his wife, Sharon, have done with the Smoky Mountain Center for Performing Arts in Franklin. The soaring, state-of-the-art structure is nearing completion, and will welcome its first performance July 3.

“This is a lifelong desire to do this for his community,” Chris Malone, the lead project architect, told a group of reporters gathered at the facility for a special Media Day last week. “This is an affair of the heart.”

Even Malone seemed in awe of the structure.

“It’s beyond what I thought it was going to be,” he said.

Indeed, the performing arts center is impressive. The auditorium features an incredible 60-foot wide, two-story stage complete with an orchestra pit. The soaring room is equipped with state of the art sound, a phrase the Drakes don’t take lightly — the speakers, Meyer M’Elodie Line Arrays, cost thousands of dollars each and are among the best on the market.

“Since we’re doing a lot of music groups, sound is most important,” said Effie Rosbert, a set builder who led a tour of the facility last week. “This is clear, perfect sound.”

Behind the scenes is a huge backstage area with every comfort a band or touring group would want. One room features a dozen individual lighted vanities for performers to make up their faces. Another room is set aside to allow a band to practice before the show. Several other rooms are simply places to hang out, and one section, open to fans, is where performers will sit to sign autographs.

Nearly 30 acts are lined up through December, starting on July 3 with the Oak Ridge Boys. Other musicians to grace the stage this season are The Charlie Daniels Band, Sawyer Brown, The Isaacs, and Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Plays this season will include Aida, The Jungle Book, Annie and the Velveteen Rabbit.

The Drakes seem aware that the venue is quite large for a town the size of Franklin and that filling the space consistently could be a challenge.

“This is Franklin,” said Rosbert. “We don’t know how the market’s going to bear. Some people can’t afford to come to show after show after show.”

The theater’s odds of success, however, may be pretty good with Drake’s magic touch, Malone said.

“A lot of venues like this struggle, but they approach it in a different way than Drake.”

Street vendors, store owners reach compromise

A potential clash between downtown Franklin merchants and street vendors was headed off the pass this week.

For years, street vendors have been peddling food and sodas to the large crowds converging downtown every Saturday for the popular Pickin’ on the Square music series. But store owners recently complained that the street vendors were discouraging foot traffic from migrating beyond the square to patronize the rest of Main Street.

For years, most merchants weren’t interested in staying open late on Saturdays. Street vendors selling hot dogs, ice cream, cotton candy and Philly cheese steaks cropped up to fill the void. That was years ago, however, and now merchants want in on the action.

Merchants appeared before the Franklin town board last week to voice their concerns.

The merchants’ primary concern was not so much with the vendors, but how they stationed themselves. Large trailers and trucks set up on the perimeter of the square effectively cordoned off the crowds from the rest of Main Street

One long-time vendor in particular with a large operation blocked the view of Main Street storefronts from the crowd. Mayor Joe Collins and Alderman Bob Scott floated the idea of relocating that particular vendor to a new spot, and it quickly gained traction.

“When we boiled down the issue, it was a line of sight issue,” Scott said of his discussions with all parties involved.

The town agreed to mediate a meeting between merchants and street vendors at the site of Pickin’ on the Square on Monday evening. When Scott and Collins announced the idea that had been percolating in recent days, it was well received.

“The thought process was when you look that way, you don’t see past the stand,” Mayor Joe Collins said, pointing toward Main Street from the square. “We are moving (the vendors) around so there’s not that barrier.”

The town board will still have to officially vote on the solution next week, but it will likely be approved.

“I think it’s a good compromise,” said June Hernandez, owner of Primrose Lane and president of the Streets of Franklin. “This is all we the merchants were asking for. We aren’t trying to get rid of the vendors.”

Scott was proud the community could work together for a solution.

“This was participatory government in action,” Scott said.

Scott said Pickin’ on the Square has become an institution in Franklin.

“I can’t imagine Franklin without it anymore. It’s what I describe as down-home America 50 years ago,” Scott said. People chat, socialize, dance and listen to music as a community.

“There are no strangers at Pickin’,” Scott said.

While Pickin’ on the Square attracts more than 1,000 people some Saturday nights, Betty Merrill, who helped start the series in 1992, remembers its early days. They set up a small 10-foot-by-10-foot tent in front of the courthouse and hung a light from cord strung out of a third-floor window on the courthouse.

When it rained, they forged on, convinced if they appeared consistently every Saturday the event would catch on. It did. They grew the crowd to 50 by the end of the first year, and by the end of the second year it was up to 200 to 300.

“We had so many that came there was a joke that went around town. People would say, ‘I heard they are moving the courthouse to make room for Pickin’,’” Merrill recalled.

Downtown revitalization and drawing in foot traffic for merchants was one of the original intentions of Pickin’ on the Square, said Merrill.

“The punch line is the merchants didn’t stay open,” she said. “For years we urged the merchants to join in and they didn’t. A few did, but the majority wouldn’t stay open. Now some are considering staying open but they want the vendors to step aside.”

Walter Coggins, who runs a concession stand as a fundraiser for the local Shriners Club, questioned whether people will actually wander off down Main Street to shop. Most are there to see their friends and hear the music, he said.

“I think if something is right handy that’s as far as they’d go,” Coggins said. “They can still hear everything and not have to go too far.”

Coggins recalls in the early years when Peoples stayed open an hour later, but the only time they got people in the store was when it rained and everyone ran for cover.

Hernandez is one of the few storeowners downtown who stays open late. Hernandez said she doesn’t judge the benefit solely by the sales she makes that night, as many people will come back the following week after browsing on Saturday night.

“It is always worth staying open Saturday night,” Hernandez said.

Group, angry with government, descends on Franklin

An angry crowd stormed downtown Franklin on tax day last week, protesting the federal government’s bailouts, high taxes and pork barrel spending.

The Tea Party protest was one of hundreds that took place across the nation April 15, the first tax day since President Barack Obama has been in office. The demonstrations have been touted as non-partisan, but the Franklin protest had a Republican bent with speakers and sign- wavers denouncing Obama and government-funded bailouts.

Signs waved by the shouting throng stated, “Freedom Works, Bailouts Hurt,” “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Debt,” TEA — Taxes Enslaving Americans,” and one that was a direct attack on Obama’s presidential campaign said, “So How’s That Hope and Change Working Out For You.”

Another sign stated, “We Are Proud of America Mr. Obama, Why Aren’t You?” while another said, “Bailouts + Debt = Fiscal Child Abuse.”

The event featured patriotic singing, with members of the audience singing along and one audience member was waving a Bible in the air.

Approximately 400 attended the rally put on by Freedom Works, a local political organization. The organization’s leader, Don Swanson, urged the crowd to push for change by writing letters to the editor.

“Do not leave this place and do nothing,” Swanson pleaded. “We’ve done that long enough.”

Staunch conservative and Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower — who was the Republican nominee for Congress against Democrat Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, in the 11th District race — quipped that he doesn’t need a teleprompter to speak like Obama.

However, Mumpower said the protest was not about political parties, but instead about freedom.

“Enough of Washington policies that make people smaller and government bigger,” Mumpower told the cheering crowd.

Mumpower denounced welfare programs that “rest on the backs of our children through borrowed dollars.”

There also should be no tolerance for people who are indifferent to the U.S. Constitution, said Mumpower.

“We’re here to fight for the lives and future of our children,” Mumpower said.

Duty is the essence of being a human being and the baby boomer generation is the first to leave its children with a smaller vision of the American Dream, he said.

He urged the crowd to believe in the Constitution, not live off the labor of others and to believe in the American Dream. Mumpower quoted Gandhi, saying when someone tries to affect change, the first thing people in power do is ignore, then they laugh, then they fight and finally they surrender.

It is not too late to bring the change to America that is needed Mumpower said. In fact, the fight has just begun, he said. The nation’s founding fathers should be the role models as they were thoughtful, courageous and persistent, he said.

He turned to the American flag on the stage and pointed to the bronze eagle.

“We have to fight for that eagle,” Mumpower said.

As the most conservative member of the Asheville City Council, Mumpower voted against hiring new police officers for the city because they wouldn’t be allowed to enforce immigration laws.

Franklin businessman Phil Drake, who owns Drake Software and is the second largest employer in the county with 500 employees, spoke against the government bailing out corporations and banks.

“There is a place for government,” Drake said. “The primary role of the government should be defense.”

Drake then applauded the Navy seals for their recent rescue in the pirate standoff.

The real tax rate imposed by the government is not what is taken but what is spent because eventually that money will have to be paid back, Drake said. The money will be paid back by either raising taxes or printing more money, which will make “your money less valuable,” Drake said.

The tax code has 74,000 pages and no one understands it, Drake said, adding that the federal deficit is $11 trillion.

The problem in this country is that the government is demanding things today that it is not willing to pay for. Also, the 30 million babies killed by abortion could be alive today and contributing to Social Security, he said.

The government’s No. 1 expense is the “redistribution of wealth,” he said, adding there is only one way out of the current situation: “Stop spending.”

Macon leaders question Georgia sewer headed their way

Macon County commissioners voiced concern this week over a proposed sewer treatment plant that would discharge into the Little Tennessee River just across the state line in Georgia.

The river, considered an environmental treasure and a future source of drinking water, flows north through Franklin and on to Lake Fontana

“As the county adjacent to and directly downstream from the proposed Rabun County facility we have significant concerns about the impact of this project on the water quality in the Little Tennessee watershed on both sides of the state border,” Macon wrote in a letter to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division states.

Rabun County, Ga., needs a discharge permit to convert the closed-down Fruit of the Loom plant into a sewer treatment plant. While a written public comment period was held on the permit, Macon commissioners called for a formal public hearing in their letter.

The letter also states that the river is listed as polluted in Georgia and North Carolina and potential further degradation must be approached carefully.

The town of Franklin also has plans in the works to use the river as an alternative source of drinking water, the letter states.

“There are many questions we would like the opportunity to discuss,” the letter states.

The application process for a permit provides holding a public hearing if there is sufficient public interest. Commissioner Bobby Kuppers, who brought the issue forward, said he believes there is enough public interest to warrant a public hearing.

The Little Tennessee Watershed Association has been leading a public campaign over the past month encouraging the public to send comments on the permit. The environmental group previously spoke at a commissioners meeting about the issue.

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