At the Franklin Board of Aldermen meeting that took place Monday night, new board members Barbara McRae and Patti Hallyburton Abel joined incumbents Joyce Handley, Verlin Curtis, Farrell Jamison, and Billy Mashburn who was re-elected in the November election. New mayor Bob Scott also took the helm for the first time at the meeting.
To open, each member told the rest of the board and the members of the public who had gathered in the meeting room their hopes for the future of the Town of Franklin.
Scott began by delivering his first message as sitting mayor that included thanks to former Mayor Joe Collins and former Alderman Sissy Pattillo.
“We will see their efforts for many years to come around town and I just want to publicly thank them,” he said. “Tonight marks a new starting point for the town. Whatever has happened in the past is passed and this is a new beginning. I hope this board will work together for the best of Franklin. I don't expect us to always agree, but I know that we will work together and if there are any disagreements we will work them out face to face.”
He also told of his goals to develop a desirable environment for small business owners in the Town of Franklin and develop a strong relationship between the local government and those owners.
“We need to embrace the younger generation of entrepreneurs who are investing money and talent into Franklin. There are young folks out there who have innovative ideas and who are intuned to the ever changing face of society. Our younger generation wants to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others and we need to help them do it,” he said.
The board members followed Scott by telling of their hopes for the future of the town and the board that represents it.
“I would like to see us continue to keep our eyes and ears open for the needs that are in town. We may not agree, but we need to listen,” said Handley.
Jamison stressed the importance of upgrading the town's water and sewer systems before turning his attention to the town's economy.
“We need to focus on economic development and trying to get business into vacant properties inside the city limits. Another thing we need to focus on is surplus property. We need to get the surplus property and the old Town Hall marketed, which we have it marketed now, but we need to rid ourselves of that and decide what we're going to do with the money,” he said.
Mashburn agreed that the water and sewer issues were high on the priority list.
“We've still got a long ways to go,” he said.
Curtis also stressed the importance of finishing water and sewer projects as well as selling surplus properties.
“I'm ready to get that money back into our general fund.”
McRae touched on the same issues as the other aldermen, but expanded on her hopes for the role the town board serves.
“I would like to see Franklin have some input with the schools. Even if at first it's just by having a presence in them, maybe in East Franklin. Schools have such an impact on our economic development. It's the future of our children, but also, the better the schools are, the more businesses will look to come here,” said McRae.
Abel expressed her eagerness to learn more about the water and sewer issues and touched on her concerns for the town.
“I agree about the empty buildings. It would be nice if we could help businesses get started and into those. I see a lot of people going outside of Franklin, going to Clayton or to Sylva for dining because what they're looking for isn't here and I think that's something we need to look at, giving our business owners more support because they are what drives people into Franklin,” said Abel. “Another thing that is important, whether they can vote or not, is giving our property owners and business owners a voice. They don't feel like they have a voice, I've heard that a lot. I think that's something that needs to change.”
The town board holds meetings the first Monday of each month unless it falls on a holiday. The meetings are open to the public.