By Stephen Smoot
Last week, the council for the Town of Franklin met. They first discussed business, then pleasure.
Frank Wehrle, town administrator, reminded the council that the financial report would show that ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds provided by the federal government would be drawn down considerably for the purchase of new vehicles.
“We do have the van,” he said. “We got it a couple of weeks ago.” Wehrle added that the truck and plow would arrive “in the first quarter of next year.”
The representative from Thrasher gave the council an update on the water project. The installation of some of the on-site piping hit brief delays because “they hit quite a bit of rock up there.” Instead of having to haul the stone away at extra cost, however, Thrasher used it to line the riverbank.
He then turned to the future project at Entry Mountain, saying Thrasher will submit an application for state grant funding in November. The representative advised that “there will be a better chance of getting it all grant funded” by splitting the single project into two. Overall, the project exceeds the amount of grant award for any one project, but the state would likely approve two so it would fall into the funding threshold.
After water came a discussion of the upcoming sewer project. A representative from New River Engineering summarized the project, saying that it would take the bio-treatment part of the plant “and make it more conventional.” The new design will help the plant continue to meet standards on nitrogen. Although currently too small to need to meet phosphorous requirements, the plant could do that should the regulations change.
The new plan includes using the current pond for environmentally safe sludge disposal to save the town the cost of hauling it to a landfill.
With the cost estimated currently at more than $1.1 million, the representative assured the council that “we will seek as much grant and low interest loan funding as we can.”
Bruce Minor asked, “If we don’t get the grant, do we have to pay all of that?” Wehrle shared with the council that the cost quoted only covered engineers’ fees and not construction.
The representative assured the council that if grant and loan money were not forthcoming, work would cease. That would prevent the town government from getting stuck with a bill it may not be able to pay. He added that funding usually “comes up pretty close to what we recommend.”
Also, New River Engineering would meet with the council regularly at each step. “You will all be involved with each of these.”
The council approved moving forward with the plans, with Mayor Bob Horan saying “we’ll move forward with that.”
Next, the group discussed the upcoming centennial anniversary of the Franklin Town Fire. This took place on April 24, 1924.
Horan shared that the plan lay in putting together a package of public events to teach the history and “to generate interest.”
He added that he spoke to Woodrow Hartman, who will turn 107 next month, and asked him about what he remembered. Horan said “that will be interesting to the public.”
Elizabeth Scott told the council, “We’ve talked about it a little bit.” She mentioned that local resident Sherry Crigler “has ton of photos” related to research conducted by her late husband, Alfred, for a book on the subject. She then asked “if any of you guys have pictures from back then.”
Plans thus far include Richard Ruddle putting together an event on Main Street and the Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce holding an evening get-together at the community building, complete with light refreshments and a slideshow.
Scott said that she heard that the fire inspired town businesses to reconstruct with brick instead of wood. She turned to T. E. Wimer, councilman, and said, “Is that true?”
Wimer smiled and replied, “I don’t go back that far!”
Scott then turned to discuss a celebration closer at hand, saying “keep in mind that the town and the chamber conjunctively do a Christmas celebration. Pendleton Senior and Family Services will partner as well. Christmas in the Park will take place on Dec. 9.
She shared details of the day with the council, including a 5 p.m. parade starting at Franklin Elementary School. Scott said, “Lois Smith helps me with that. She does a great job.”
Minor then informed the council of impending drills on Dec 8, jointly conducted by county and local emergency services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The drill will test responses to contamination of the water supply by terrorists. He informed the public “it’s just a drill. There’s no disruption of service.”
At the close of the session, Genevieve Glover announced her retirement from the council after 34 years of service. She has held both the offices of councilman and mayor during her time. Glover shared plans to move to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to be closer to her family, especially her grandchildren.
Kristin Dingess, town council member, said, “That’s good for your grandchildren, but not for us. We’ll miss you.”
Glover, who just turned 86, responded by saying “it’s time to hang it up.” She added that when she first took office, she felt Franklin was a beautiful town and has spent her time serving the town always working to improve that.
The mayor added, “You will be missed.”