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News Town holds off on granting funds to non-profits, skeptical of TDA

Chuck Holland requests that the town board allow him to rezone his land on Old Murphy Road, but was denied. Photo by Davin Eldridge.Ten local organizations seeking grant funding for various projects over the next fiscal year will have to wait for approval by the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen. The board made no decision on the matter at Tuesday’s meeting.

The wait follows a policy that would establish a grant application priority ranking system for community nonprofits.

In July, the board decided in a unanimous vote that for this year, all nonprofit organizations must submit any grant requests they have for the entire year to the town by Sept. 1. For the following fiscal year, the grant application deadline for non-profits will be set for July 1. The policy would eliminate yearround grant applications by such organizations in one fell swoop.

“So, what we’re looking at is establishing a cap on grants up to $5,000,” said Mayor Joe Collins, also suggesting the need for a “rainy day fund” for organizations that may require annual funds greater than the cap limit. “We’ve got to refine the criteria,” he said.

“I think we need to make what little money we have go as far as we can for these organizations,” said Alderman Farrell Jamison.

Alderman Bob Scott expressed concern that funding organizations like Angel Medical Center, which is not a non-profit, may benefit a hospital that serves or employs people from outside Franklin or Macon County.

The following list consists of the organizations that have submitted grant request applications for the 2012-13 fiscal year:

— Angel Medical Center (AMC) requested a one-time grant of $5,000 to improve its Outpatient Medicine Department. Don Capaforte, on behalf of AMC, said that the hospital would use the funds to help expand its physical capacity and service capability to meet the needs of the community. Comprehensive diagnostic, interventional, therapeutic and emergency services would all be benefits reaped by taxpayers should the grant request be approved. He cited that 50 patients per day use the Outpatient program.

— The Arts Council requested $2,500 to help fund artist fees, promotion and production, and operating costs for “high arts programs in Franklin in the coming year.” Director Bobbi Contino said in her request that the council produces at least 12 main stage events annually, as well as ARTSaturday workshops every month. “Mr. Scott was correct that we certainly appeal to tourists, but most of what we do is for the people of Franklin,” she said.

— Macon County CareNet requested $5,000 to help fund its operations. Of that amount, $4,500 would help purchase food and kitchen supplies for CareNet clients, while $500 would assist in paying delinquent water bills for clients. In 2010, the organization distributed 161,298 lbs. of food to 10,373 families receiving its aid, costing a total of $48,764. Approximately 856 families were assisted financially with funds totaling $120,753, according to the request. “The truth is, the impact from the last two years’ poor economy still affects us all,” read a statement by CareNet Treasurer Dick Richards in the application. “Then with this year’s continued unemployment rate due to loss of local jobs, inflation, and strained finances, this has created a crisis for many families leading to much despair.”

— Macon County Habitat for Humanity requested $7,000 to help pay for 11 repair or rehabilitation projects pending in the organization’s operations. Three of which are residents living within the Town of Franklin. The materials needed for such projects would be paid for with the sought-after funds, according to the request application. “We look forward to the prospects of partnering with the Town of Franklin on future in-town-limits projects,” read the application signed by Judy Hamilton. “With all this said, we trust you will carefully consider our request for $7,000 in non-profit funding.”

— The largest request was made by the Macon County Historical Society, in the amount of $20,000. If granted, the funds would largely pay for renovations of the building. “Last year I spent about 1,200 hours in that museum basically trying to start a renovation program,” said museum president Bob Poindexter, asserting that much of the restoration was paid out of his own pocket. “We attract a lot of tourists in all three museums in the town. We’re trying to keep up with the numbers ourselves.” Poindexter estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 people visited the museum last year. The funds would help pay for upstairs renovations and establish adequate “financial footing” for the following year.

— The Macon County Public Library requested $12,000 to help fund its Reading Rover bookmobile. Last year the town granted the program $10,000. Since 1999, the Reading Rover Bookmobile has developed pre-literacy skills by bringing monthly storytime programs and age-appropriate materials to toddlers and preschoolers at child care locations. The Reading Rover Bookmobile served around 2,245 young children and their parents in at least five child care centers or family child care homes in Franklin last year.

The Rover provides literature for those who may not have transportation to the library. “The library hopes to provide excellent service and convenient access to meet the education needs of preschool children and their caregivers with the Reading Rover Bookmobile,” said library employee Karen Wallace. The program costs nearly $500 per day to run 200 days per year.

— Janet Greene, chairman of the Scottish Tartans Museum Board of Trustees, asked the board for $5,125 to help pay off its t-shirt machine. Greene said that the grant would help the museum in otherwise tough budgetary times, and that the approximately $5,000 left on the machine would be paid by the museum itself.

— Mountain Mediation Services requested $1,000 to help provide court mediations in Macon County. According to its Executive Director Lorraine Johnson, the organization serves the seven westernmost counties of WNC and approximately 1,000 clients.

— REACH of Macon County, a non-profit service provider for victims of domestic violence and children of domestic violence, requested $5,000 from the board in order to match state funds that assist in the organization’s yearly operations such as shelter, court advocacy and counseling expenses. Last year, REACH provided services for more than 800 people.

— The Smoky Mountain Marine Corps League requested $750 from the board to help fund its annual regional dance. Retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer Don Lanson said that Nov. 10 is the 236th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, and that the dance commemorates current service members and those of the past. Held in Cherokee, the event has historically had no trouble receiving funding from leagues in the surrounding area, however, due to the economy it “no longer can do this.”

Aldermen voted to continue their meeting to Monday, Sept. 19 to further discuss the matter and vote on the requests.

Re-examining the TDA’s role

In addition, Scott suggested that many of the organizations seeking funding assistance could, in part, receive grants from the Tourism Development Authority.

“A lot of these requests are tourist oriented,” said Scott. “I’ve been looking into the TDA, and I am a little concerned about some of the things the TDA is doing. It’s an authority and it can operate pretty much however it wants to, but it is still public.” He also suggested quarterly reports be given to the Board for review of TDA expenditures.

Asked why many of the applicants could not receive some funding from the TDA, Town Manager Sam Greenwood replied that they did not need advertising funds.

Scott said that after reviewing the Senate Bill (SB 369), which authorizes the TDA to levy occupancy taxes, one-third of the revenue it collects can fund tourism related businesses or organizations. He cited the Historical Society, Arts Council and Tartans Museum as downtown organizations which largely deal with the tourist industry.

“I don’t know why some of these requests from non-profits can’t go to the TDA as well as the town board,” Scott said. “We’re running out of money for organizations that deal with human kind.”

Collins said that review of TDA operations was imminent, however was not timely to the aldermen meeting. “I don’t doubt that it’s coming in the near future that we’re going to need to have a discussion about the TDA. I think I feel it’s brewing, but it’s not here tonight and whatever decisions that we make and how we handle our limited budget should not be contingent upon what we believe should be kicked in, matched or otherwise brought in by the TDA— there’s going to be a day for this.”

Town approves CTP

After roughly two years in the making, aldermen voted unanimously to approve the county’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan, which looks to meet the transportation needs for the county as it grows over the next 25 years.

Region A Southwestern Commission official Ryan Sherby, who has worked on the plan over the past year with the Planning Board to see the project through was not present at the hearing. Town Planner Michael Grubermann spoke on his behalf, giving aldermen an overview of the plan.

In essence, the CTP consists of recommended improvements based on road safety and capacity issues. Several streets and some freeways throughout the county will receive “beefier” lanes to handle traffic congestion.

Appointed by county commissioners in 2009, the CTP committee analyzed data, surveyed the public, produced recommendations and presented the recommendations at a public workshop in August 2010. The additional public input was used to refine the plan and come to the draft that will be presented this month to the towns of Highlands and Franklin, and the county as a whole.

The plan can be viewed on the town website at

Forge in Franklin street closure

Matt Kolodzik, youth minister at First Christian Church of Franklin, requested of the board to close the corner of Main and Iotla Streets for its first annual Forge in Franklin event.

“It’s a youth and young adult concert to be coordinated at the gazebo on [Sept. 16],” said Kolodzik, requesting that the road be closed for the event due to the heavy foot traffic in close proximity to the intersection. Aldermen voted unanimously to close down the street.

Other business

— The Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen officially declared Sept. 17-23 to be Constitution Week, in honor of the 224th anniversary of the drafting of the Constitution of the United States at the request of the Battle of Sugartown Daughters of the American Revolution.

— Aldermen also declared the month of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month to join the national initiative to fight breast cancer locally. “Whereas the battle with breast cancer is on-going, we urge all women to practice monthly self-exams and women over the age of 40 to have a yearly mammogram because screening and early detection are essential to our fight against breast cancer,” said Collins.

— The town unanimously voted to deny local land developer Chuck Holland a rezoning request of his commercial property at 1796 Old Murphy Road to residential property.

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