Town of Franklin opposes legislation regarding publication of legal notices
On Monday, the Town of Franklin voted unanimously to oppose North Carolina Senate Bill 773. The proposed legislation would allow all municipalities and counties throughout the state to publish public notices via governmental websites and would eliminate the requirement for governments to publish public notices in newspapers.
“There are lots and lots of people that don’t have internet,” said Franklin Town Alderman Bob Scott. “Newspapers are still the only means we have to get the word out on public notices. I don’t understand why the Senate wants to do away with that, other than it being a cost saving,” he said.
Scott warned that such a bill could create instances where residents with a town would be unaware of a public hearing.
Franklin Mayor Joe Collins agreed with Scott’s position on the bill, which if passed will go into effect on Oct. 1. “A lot of folks still rely upon the tried and true,” he said.
The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 19 by Andrew Brock (R-Davie/Rowan) and Warren Daniel (R-Morganton). A companion bill in the House, H.B. 472, was introduced by House Majority Leader Paul Stam (R-Wake).
Shortly after the bill was introduced, the North Carolina Press Association (NCPA) released a statement in opposition to the legislation in which they urged every member news outlet to contact lawmakers in opposition to the bill:
“NCPA strongly opposes the bill, which is bad public policy run amok,” read the statement. “We ask all members of the NCPA to stand up, together, to oppose this bill.”
The statement goes on to say that the House’s version of the bill not only “slams the door closed on openness and leaves every citizen of the state in the dark, it goes a scary step farther: it allows the government to police itself.”
The press association points out that the original intention of the legislation that requires publication of public notices was to promote openness in government and to inform the maximum number of citizens of the government's business.
“Public notices need to be where the public notices,” says the statement.
The legislation would especially hurt the poor and elderly, who are statistically less likely to have access to computers and the internet, says the NCPA.
The Town of Franklin’s ability to offer discounts to residents who pay their taxes early was challenged recently by the state, according to Town Manager Sam Greenwood.
Greenwood said that the Department of Revenue reportedly had no copy of the Town’s resolution authorizing the tax discount. “It’s been around for I don’t know how many years ,” he said.
With the vote, the Town was able to establish such a resolution that would make the tax discount available. If the town had not taken action that night, he explained, the DOR would have cancelled the service.
“It’s been working for a lot of years, I don’t see any reason not to continue to do it,” said Alderman Joyce Handley.
Greenwood noted that few residents take advantage of the discount, and that it adds to the workload of town accountants.
“It turns out to be, as I understand it, a time intensive thing because anytime someone does bring one in, it’s on them to make the calculation, but then it’s on the town to make sure the calculation is right,” said Henning Jr.
Flood plain ordinance update
According to Curtis, Town Planner Michael Grubermann has compiled a list of approximately 200 residents that would be affected by a flood plain ordinance. The board unanimously voted to send letters of notice to affected property owners, stating that their properties fall within FEMA designated flood zones. The intent, according to Curtis, is to first send the property owners a letter so that they can schedule a public hearing with the individuals and get their opinion on the matter.
Board opposes ‘Billboard Bill’
The board voted to go on record and oppose Senate Bill 183, or the “Billboard Bill.” One provision of the bill would allow billboards to be placed along primary routes within the town with a spacing of 100 feet.
The resolution passed by the board says they feel the numerous billboards could be a distraction to motorists and take away from the area’s natural beauty.
The bill is “taking the town’s ability to regulate billboards away,” added Alderman Bob Scott.
The motion to oppose the bill passed unanimously.
Scottish Tartan Museum budget request
Town Manager Sam Greenwood spoke concerning the budget request by the Scottish Tartans Museum.
The museum’s fundraising and gift shop sales have dropped off, and needs additional funding, Greenwood said.
The museum is asking for a sum of $9,360 — the first installment of $4,680 to be paid now and the remaining balance to be paid in the next fiscal year.
“We can’t let the museums go, because they are a good tourist draw,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood added his concern about the longterm effects of bailing out the museum.
“There needs to be a long-term solution, not just tiding them over each year,” he said.
Janet Greene, chairman of the board of trustees for the Scottish Tartans Museum, was not able to attend the meeting Monday and provide official documentation, so the board decided to postpone the decision until its May 16 meeting.
LBJ honored for work
During the public session at the Monday meeting of the Franklin Board of Alderman, three men from the Lyndon B. Johnson Job Corps Center were recognized for their work on Veterans Memorial Park. Mayor Joe Collins awarded Kareem Ellerbe, Clarence Jones and Donald Gill a certificate recognizing their “outstanding service to the town of Franklin.”