Cost of property cleanup unlikely to be recovered.
The Town of Franklin will be acting on two nuisance violations that have taken place inside the city limits as a result of Monday night’s meeting.
The town's nuisance ordinance states that any owner, lessee, or occupant of any property within the town shall keep such property clean and clear of defined nuisances as well as all weeds, wild growth and grass over 10 inches in height. It also says that every owner, lessee, or occupant will keep such property free and clear of filth, open wells or containers, and all refuse materials of every kind and description.
If a person is found to have violated the ordinance, the Land Use Administrator (Justin Setser) must notify the respondent by certified and first class mail of such conditions and shall order the abatement thereof within 15 days of the date of such notice.
From there, the town would clean up the property or contract out the services, but as Town Attorney John Henning Jr. described it, if the person responsible begins the cleanup process before the time limit is up then the abatement can be abandoned.
“If there is not compliance before the time period ends then you end up contracting out the services, we would put a lien against the property just like unpaid taxes so you would hopefully recover the funds eventually,” Henning said. “I would tell you not to hope that you are going to recover every penny you spend on this, but you are making an investment in cleaning up the community and that's what those ordinances stand for to begin with.”
At the meeting there were two separate violations on the agenda and though a process had begun to get one cleaned up – with agreement from those responsible for the property and town officials – the other one which includes two parcels would prove to be harder to resolve.
The property that is causing problems for officials sits at the corner of Forest Avenue and Ulco Drive and was a topic of discussion at May's town meeting when a resident of the neighborhood brought the issue to the board's attention, though it wouldn't be the first time they had heard complaints.
“One parcel has a burned out doublewide on it. We have 14 handwritten complaints about this one property,” Setser told the aldermen. “This is a nuisance violation so it's the same process. In the packet I gave you there's two quotes for the cleanup of the property.”
But there is a catch to this particular case since the owner of one parcel is incarcerated and the other is deceased, not to mention the lien that the federal government has placed against one parcel as a result of the owner's indictment.
“They've got the first tax lien so anything we do, we're not going to be able to collect our money until they get theirs,” said Alderman Farrell Jamison.
Henning then interjected the line of administration, concluding that though it was a confusing situation, the administrator for both properties happened to be the same person.
“We can get there,” said Henning. “We can figure out who to serve, how to serve them and get the hearing going, but it's going to take a lot of time and patience.”
“I think it's worth it, but for now, if you would just authorize the Land Use Administrator, the Town Manager, and myself to pursue the means to move forward, we'll be better off,” he said as he urged the board to allow the three the time needed to work out the details for a way to navigate the situation.
Jamison supported the idea of moving forward on the process and the rest of the board agreed.
The Hospice House Foundation of Western North Carolina (HHF) could soon lose the town's support for a building reuse grant that would be administered by the N.C. Department of Commerce and would add $100,000 to the foundation's goal of raising $4.3 million for its future home here in Franklin.
HHF president Michele Alderson approached the board at the April meeting to request their support in obtaining the grant that requires a governmental entity to make the request.
“The purpose of this grant is to use existing structures instead of letting empty buildings sit unused,” she said. “Under those guidelines we qualify for the Building Reuse Grant as long as you all are actually requesting the grant.”
The guidelines that were established by the state and described at the April meeting would require Franklin to contribute five percent ($5,000) cash match to the project which would actually be provided by HHF through administrative fees. The board had voted unanimously to support HHF while Henning and their grant writer worked out the details, but the motion was contingent on the belief that there would be no liability to the Town.
But at Monday's meeting, interim town manager Summer Woodard described a hurdle that she has experienced in the reading of the specifics of the grant.
“Upon investigation, I looked over the application and I feel that there is considerable amount of liability that the town will have to assume,” she told the board.
Henning also weighed in on the situation indicating to the board that the town would be responsible for monitoring the employment.
“You get the unemployment report that they have to send to the state each month to make sure that they are employing the amount of people that they said they were. If you find that they are not, then it is up to the town to sue them for the 'claw-back.' You'd be responsible for doing at least that.”
If the funds couldn't be recovered, the question was posed whether the town would be responsible for paying the funds back to the state in which Henning said he didn't know because Department of Commerce officials haven't returned his inquiries. When asked whether there was a history to worry about with the organization, Henning told the board that he didn't think so but that nobody from HHF was present at the meeting to explain the situation.
The deadline for the grant application will be in July after the next board meeting which will allow the board to consider the situation more in-depth before pulling or continuing their support for the grant.