At Monday night's monthly board of aldermen meeting, members of the public approached the board with their concerns of the seemingly growing wood pile that is located in the middle of town, just behind the Nikwasi Indian Mound.
Emmanuel Carrion, owner of Carrion Tree Service uses the lot for his business and stores cut wood in the area that was formerly vacant and mostly used as a parking area.
Peggy Huscusson who serves as the pro-administrator of the Gene Huscusson estate, attended the meeting to voice her displeasure with the business being conducted. In the late ’60s, the land adjacent to the Nikwasi Indian Mound was purchased by Gene and June Huscusson and now houses various businesses that rent space there.
“First of all, the wood cutting operation is an eye sore. It shows very little respect and honor towards the sacredness of the mound. If the operation is so enticing, I would like to ask the owner of the property why he leased it out behind the Huscusson property instead of his property,” said Huscusson.
She also brought up the issue of safety to the board, pointing to the possibilities of wood falling on to a passerby or into the road and causing an accident. She passed around pictures of pieces of wood that had rolled down on to her property as well as pictures of oil and gas stains on her property.
“Another issue is the noise problem. All of the tenants at the Huscusson commercial rental property have complained about how noisy the wood cutting operation is. It's unbearable with all of those chain-saws going. One tenant has been there over 40 years and has never complained until now. Another tenant has given up and is moving due to the noise issue,” said Huscusson. “I would like to request that the board investigate and initiate rules that take into account high impact businesses such as wood cutting, wood chopping versus low impact businesses like the acupuncture office, the insurance agency and the barber shop. Additionally, I would like to request that the noise ordinance be reinstated in Franklin.”
Mayor Joe Collins assured Huscusson that different avenues to remedy the issue had been explored.
“Believe me we have looked into it. We have, we are, we continue. Sometimes the tools are not exactly there that gives you a remedy, but we are doing the best we can,” he said.
“I'm pleased that he's doing well for himself, but I've got a commercial interest in this too,” said Huscusson. “It's sad that one set of businesses are negated by another that moves in.”
Huscusson was joined by business owners that were ready to voice their concern as well. Dr. Tracey Dogan claims her acupuncture clinic which is located on the property is being affected by the wood pile.
“I like the area and so do my patients, but the wood pile just seems to be getting out of hand and invasive. The noise is getting louder and more frequent,” said Dogan. “I don't think it's fair that one person can upset so many businesses.”
Claudia Mathis, the business owner who was forced to move, followed Dogan. Mathis said her jewelry business primarily uses telephones to conduct transactions and the four to six hours of chain-saw use made it almost impossible, eventually leading her to relocate.
“You can't walk away from it, you can't open the door because it only gets louder,” she said. “The gas fumes are unbearable. The trucks unload huge logs, sometimes loads that are bigger than the trailer. It's frightening. It was impossible to do my job. We had no choice but to leave.”
She too pointed to safety as a reason for concern. Also a certified Homeland Security Rescue Worker, she described the possibility of disaster striking the town and how a large wood pile may fare in the event of a tornado.
“If you have a micro-burst or a tornado in this town and that catches wind, you will have five to ten thousand bullets traveling down that highway. There's no way that they can move that wood in time or secure it. I can guarantee you, because I've seen it in New Orleans and I've seen it in New Jersey, the town will be held liable for not doing something about this. It's not safe,” she said in closing.
Collins again assured those who spoke that the board would continue to look into options concerning the wood cutting operations.
Board waives water tap fee
Sheriff Robert Holland was also in attendance at Monday's meeting to request that the town waive a water tap fee at the department's shooting range on Lake Emory. In exchange for the waiver of the $3,100 tap fee, the Franklin Police Department would be able to use the shooting range to fulfill their qualification requirements.
The range was built in 2008 when the economic downturn was setting in as a way to save money. Instead of sending officers to Sylva and paying them overtime, the shooting range was conceived as a way to cut back. The property that was used was located on annexed property of the town.
“We've followed the suggestions you made. We make sure there's no Bible school the week of qualifying and it's not used on Sundays. As far as I know, there hasn't been any complaints,” said Holland.
According to Holland there are ten lanes at the range allowing 10 officers to qualify at the same time. There's also a classroom with bathrooms attached and trained and certified range masters on-site for training operations.
“Basically, what this means is that if Captain Apel wants to use the range next month, the range master or assistant range master will be there to open the facility up and probably stay there. I suggest that they stay there because there may be a need for an additional instructor,” said Holland.
Alderman Billy Mashburn interjected a brief history about the waterline that would be used for the shooting range.
“The waterline that they are talking about was installed by the county. At one point, everybody's well out there was failing and the reason was because of leaching from the landfill. The county was able to get a grant to run water from the town's water system to all of these people's homes. The town agreed that instead of charging out of town fees, that it would charge in town fees. Each tap out there would cost $1,200,” said Mashburn. “So even though he is in the county, we allowed those hook ups for $1,200. If it makes anybody feel better, we can say that we're going to forgive the $1,200 instead of $3,100. I'm basically going to make a motion that we waive the fee.”
Alderman Farrell Jamison seconded the motion citing the continuous improved relationship between the agencies.
“Over the past four or five years there's been continually improving relations between these two agencies,” said Jamison. “I think it's a win-win situation.”
The motion passed unanimously to waive the water tap fee for the shooting range.
The next Board of Aldermen meeting will take place on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.