Even outside of pandemic-related work, the city of Franklin has been busy this year.
Franklin Tomorrow partnered with the city for the November FrankTalks event Monday to present City Hall on Wheels, where City Administrator Eric Stuckey virtually walked the community through various city departments for an update on the projects and changes 2020 has brought.
“Just the mention of the year (2020) has kind of become a punchline. You say it, and people groan and/or laugh,” Stuckey said. “But regardless of that, we have had an exceptional year in some other ways. A lot of positives have come Franklin’s way.”
In late August, Franklin was named an All-America City by the National Civic League. Money magazine named Franklin No. 8 on this year’s list of best places to live. Franklin won two Voice of the People awards from the National Research Center. The U.S. Census Bureau identified Franklin as one of the 20 fastest growing cities in the last decade.
Stuckey said the city has aimed to emerge from this year better, stronger and more competitive, focusing on four key areas: the pandemic, people, projects and possibilities.
Growth and money amid COVID-19
When it comes to the first on the list, the COVID-19 pandemic, Kristine Brock, the city’s assistant administrator for finance and administration, said the city’s sales tax revenue numbers are remaining pretty stable, at least more than expected. The city budgeted for a 15% drop in tax revenue at the beginning of the pandemic but later amended the budget to account for a 10% drop. However, those numbers are still “very conservative,” she said.
“We did have some pretty significant revenue losses in sales tax at the start of the pandemic; however, the last three months, we’ve essentially been unchanged from last year — down just a very slight amount, less than 1% from last year,” Brock said.
She also shared Franklin was allocated $1.2 million in CARES Act money from the state and is still waiting to receive about $1 million of that to reimburse pandemic-related expenses.
Alex Brown, assistant director of Franklin’s building and neighborhood services department, said Franklin is still growing this year. From January to October of last year, the city had issued just over 5,300 building permits, and this year, that number stands at just over 5,200. Brown said the numbers this year are “all in all very consistent” with last year.
Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth assured viewers that builders in Franklin pay for the impact they have on the city’s infrastructure.
“Sometimes people believe, with all this development activity, that developers come here and they … take advantage of our quality of life, and they don’t contribute their share. Well, that is not the case in Franklin,” he said.
Police and fire departments plan for holidays
When it comes to the city’s “people” focus, public safety plays a huge role in Franklin. Police Chief Deborah Faulkner said with the holidays approaching, there are a couple things residents should keep in mind.
First, she said the police department is keeping an eye out for “porch pirates,” people who steal packages from front porches. Faulkner shared residents can often specify where they want a package left upon delivery, which may help prevent theft, but officers are doing "saturation patrols" to prevent stealing.
She also said Franklin is seeing an uptick in vehicle theft cases and reminded residents not to leave valuables in their cars.
Additionally, those traveling out of town during the holidays can have the police periodically check their homes to ensure their property is safe. The form to request this service can be found at franklintn.gov/government/departments-k-z/police.
Faulkner also mentioned the police department is currently holding its fifth Christmas toy drive in honor of Kristi Clark and Carter Oakley, who were hit by a semi truck and killed in 2015 while helping those in a flipped SUV on Interstate 65 during an icy night on the road.
Each year, Brad Lewis, Clark’s father, creates wooden toy boxes in which Franklin residents can donate new, unwrapped toys for families in need. Residents can donate toys for children up to 17 years old at the Franklin Police Department Headquarters on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. now until Dec. 18.
Glenn Johnson, the newly named Franklin Fire Chief, said after his 26 years of service with the Franklin Fire Department and counting, he “could not be more proud to serve this community.”
He shared the fire department has focused on creating satellite stations during the pandemic to spread out its firefighters and continue to serve the entire city. Fire Station 7, located at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center, will hopefully open by the end of the year, and this station will also feature ambulance services from Williamson Medical Center and Williamson County EMS.
Johnson and Faulkner both thanked military veterans for their service ahead of Veterans Day on Wednesday. The fire department has 32 veterans in its ranks, and the police department has 38.
Parks department anticipates new events, projects
Speaking of Veterans Day, Franklin Parks Director Lisa Clayton shared some of the recreational events and projects coming up in the near future, including the Veterans Day Reverse Parade at the Park at Harlinsdale Farm at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Next month, the city will hold its Christmas Lights drive-thru event at Eastern Flank Battle Field Park in place of its Flashlight Candy Cane Hunt. The first 250 cars to drive through the event, which will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 4 and 5, will receive a goodie bag.
Clayton also said Liberty Park, which opened in 2013, will soon receive a new master plan for a makeover, including tennis and pickleball courts, a cricket practice area, mountain biking trails, space for a farmer’s market and more.
“It was time to update this park, and because of the citizens and the businesses around here in Cool Springs, you’re going to see some major changes over the next eight years,” Clayton said. She has hopes the plan will be approved early next year.
The long-anticipated Ellie G’s Dream World will also soon begin the fundraising process. This plan for an inclusive playground in the southeast part of Franklin will be named in memory of Franklin Alderman Brandy Blanton’s granddaughter, Elliot Grace “Ellie G” Castro, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism and died last year at age 4.
The playground, which will be about four times the size of Tinkerbell Playground at Pinkerton Park, is to be inclusive for the entire family, not just for children with disabilities.
“What’s important here is it’s also for the full family, so if it’s a caregiver that has disabilities of any sort, everyone is welcome. You will feel comfortable in this area,” Clayton said.
She said fundraising for $1 million will start next year, and once construction starts, the playground should be complete within three to four years. Paul Holzen, the city’s director of engineering, explained the infrastructure needs surrounding the park’s site should be complete in the fall of 2022.
Holzen also shared updates on the Mack Hatcher extension and Franklin Road improvements, both in their construction phases, among other future projects. Mack Hatcher is projected to finish next fall, and the construction team working on Franklin Road have a monetary incentive to complete the project in 18 months.
“I love orange barrels, but I don’t want to see them for two and three years, so we were very thankful to get that incentive,” Holzen said. “It was around a half-million-dollar incentive, and it will really try to push the contractor to get it done in 18 months.”