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News Town officials discuss infrastructure at annual board retreat

Above is a rendering of the structure that may be erected at town square to replace the gazebo. The square in the eve may be used to display quilts at various times of the year. Town Manager Warren Cabe also said that the cupola may end up being smaller than depicted. The board will be voting on whether they want to use the plan Cabe suggested or develop new plans in the near future.Gazebo remodel tops the list of upcoming projects.

At the Town of Franklin's annual board retreat that took place last Saturday, aldermen and town officials looked at a variety of issues that would probably surface over the next year. Some of the topics have taken center stage before while others were relatively new.

New plans for the Gazebo

The future of the Gazebo on Town Square has long been a topic of discussion among town officials. Renovations have been discussed at length, and at Saturday's meeting, Town Manager Warren Cabe presented to the board some sample drawings of what the area could look like in the near future.

The board had previously set aside $50,000 to renovate the gazebo and the implementation of the plan that Cabe presented would come close to that total. The drawings presented would leave the stage area in place and the gazebo would be replaced with a structure that would have storage areas and rooms that may eventually have restrooms at an added cost if the board were to direct Cabe to go in that direction.

“The design you see was designed to match what you see on Main Street,” said Cabe. “We obviously don't want a metal building. We want something that matches the décor of Main Street that blends in with the rest of the area.”

Cabe and the board members were unsure about the bathrooms based on the measures it would take to put the restrooms in place and then to maintain them. The structure could be erected with the restrooms coming at a later date depending on funding.

Above is an example of the bike and pedestrian pathway proposed for the older portion of the town bridge. The railing would have a concrete base to prevent vehicles from being able to drive on the area. The bridge in the picture is located in Wake County.Cabe pointed out that the plan as presented would cause the least disruption with the concrete base that once housed a fountain and that hopefully at the February or March meetings, a plan, either the one presented or a new one, would be moving forward.

“I really like the idea of utilizing what's already there. We need a stage that's up in the air,” said Alderman Farrell Jamison. “That's a good area. It's worked well with the different bands, presenters, dancers and so on. I like it myself.”

The addition of restrooms was discussed at length, since in the past, visitors have had to use the facilities at the Macon County Courthouse or at the Franklin Town Hall located down the street.

“I think we have to have bathrooms,” said Alderman Barbara McRae.

Alderman Joyce Handley joined McRae and pointed out that sometimes the facilities were out of order and other times visitors may not know where to go to find a restroom.

Cabe suggested that the best course of action may be for him to take the designs and make them available to the public at town hall and on the website in order to allow public input and to take action at one of the next meetings. In the meantime, as Macon County owns the square, the town will be working with the county to develop a new lease. No issues are expected to arise in that process.

Water treatment facility upgrade

A water treatment facility upgrade has been on the agenda for a while now and the last time a plan was presented to the town board back in the fall, a representative from W.K Dickson, a community infrastructure consulting firm based in Charlotte, suggested that more than $20 million would be needed to upgrade the town's current system.

“I personally do not feel like the Town of Franklin can afford that,” said Cabe. “I think there needs to be another fiscally responsible way for us to make that happen.”

In search for a second opinion, Cabe has looked to McGill Associates, P.A., a firm that provides consultation on civil, environmental, and electrical engineering services. His hopes are that by the time a new fiscal year budget is ready to be approved, a financial analysis will be submitted of the sewer and enterprise budget that will consider revenue, expenditures, current rates and potential rates.

“That will be tied to another study that will show a phased approach to a water treatment facility upgrade,” said Cabe.

Officials have been touring other water plants for ideas and researching new water filtering technology. Cabe hopes to have an alternate plan in place for the board's consideration some time in May in hopes that if a phased-in plan is chosen, the preliminary work can begin in July.

“We're not out of water. We have water. We're processing it every day and we have excess. Right now we're good, but I would be failing at my job if I didn't keep telling you that we need to start the planning process. We don't want to pop up five years from now and say 'oh we're out of water',” said Cabe.

Town bridge repairs

The Department of Transportation has plans for an improvement project of the older section of what is known as the town bridge. According to Cabe, construction could start in late 2014 and possibly be completed as late as 2016.

“It's all subject to the DOT's funding. It may be sooner, it may be later,” he said. “The bridge currently has a fivefoot sidewalk on the side and then two lanes. The DOT has adopted the complete streets initiative, so they have endorsed multi-modal transportation like bike and pedestrian traffic.”

According to Cabe there are two options for the bridge; (1) A sidewalk similar to the way it is, but with a rail between the sidewalk and the traffic lanes; and (2) A ten foot lane for bicycles and pedestrians with no rail between it and the traffic lanes.

In order to put a rail in place for the second option, which seemed to be favored, the DOT would request that the town consider putting $36,000 towards the addition of the rail.

“I'm not too big on putting $36,000 of town money for this,” said Alderman Billy Mashburn. “You know we pay taxes too and I can't see contributing to that.”

The board members seemed to agree on the idea that they didn't think it was their place to put the money up for the rail, but that having a rail is important.

No actions were taken at the retreat, but the topics will be coming up over the next year. The next Board of Aldermen meeting will take place on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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