Franklin Mayor Raymond Harris said 2012 “was a year we made plans and adjustments. I knew that I wanted to find a permanent home for city government. We decided to buy the building we’re in.”
City Hall is located in the former E.A. Crowell Elementary School building on Iberia Street.
It was relocated there under the administration of former mayor Sam Jones.
Harris said there was no problem with buying the building, which the St. Mary Parish School Board is selling to the city for $35,000, but repairs were.
“At the same time we needed to do something about the fire station and city court building,” Harris said, both of which were in serious need of repairs. “The council also wanted to fix some streets. How to do that with no resources was a challenge.”
The city, in April, paid off some existing debt then borrowed again. “We borrowed just a little more than what we had just paid off,” Harris said. “About $750,000 is going to streets, another $750,000 will go into this building which Rep. Jones got for us from the state. We put ourselves into the position to fix streets, the building and city court. I thought those projects were going to start this year, but it looks like they’re going to roll into 2013.”
But this year, Harris said the long-awaited state-funded Safe Routes for Schools project finally took a foothold and has been completed. “The sidewalks are beautiful, they turned out real good,” Harris said.
Sidewalks were constructed in the areas of Foster Elementary, Franklin Junior High School, J.A. Hernandez Elementary and LaGrange Elementary.
“These sidewalks have also dressed up the neighborhood and I’m very proud of them,” Harris said.
Decades of water infiltration into sewer lines are being addressed at last, Harris said. “The changes we’ve made seem to be working,” he said. “We haven’t had a major rain to test the system, but it seems the frustration may be coming to an end for the residents of Mary Lee Subdivision.”
The mayor said the city has rehabilitated three lift stations out of 22 on the list for repairs. “I’m hoping that we’ll get all of the lift stations’ pumps and panel redone,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more to do, but only maybe two more major ones to do. The ones we’ve done seem to be working with greater efficiency.”
Harris said some costs are coming out of the city’s reserves.
“The good news is we’ve built up those reserves,” he said. “Some are coming from grants, and the good news is we’ve worked hard to get those grants. I’m proud of the ones we’re doing with grant money, but I’m very proud of the ones we’ve been able to pay for ourselves, that means we’ve managed taxpayer dollars well. We’re putting that money back into our infrastructure and back into the community, where it needs to be spent. We’re making major improvements and repairs so we can deliver services with greater efficiency. These things are starting to pay off.”
In the coming year, Harris said all lift stations should be rehabilitated, and a roof over the city’s water system clarifier constructed.
He’s anticipating rehabilitation of the water tower near Fairfax Street, and is looking forward to the street overlays. He’s also looking forward to the city hall renovations.
The city will spend about $100,000 on the city court, and a retrofit of the fire station for hurricanes, Harris said.
“I think it’s going to be one of the best and busiest years we’ve had in quite a while,” Harris said of the upcoming new year.