By Stephen Smoot
In their last meeting of the year, the mayor and town council of Franklin took up the pressing issue of equipment replacement while also reviewing holiday festivities and decorations.
After approval of the financial statement, of which town administrator Frank Wehrle said “there’s nothing that stands out,” Mayor Bob Horan opened discussion of needed purchases. Funds allocated by the American Rescue Plan Act will be used to purchase both a new cargo van and a backhoe for the town.
Wehrle explained the need for a new van, saying that “there’s a lot of wear and tear on it.” He added that “our van’s looking pretty bad” and praised town personnel efforts to keep it on the road.
Some slight complications could surround the purchase of the van. Wehrle explained that the state did not renew its cargo van contract, leaving the town to its own devices to find one. The town cannot simply buy a new cargo van that meets its needs off of a dealership lot. It must have adaptations such as shelving and other features. “It’s a pretty involved process,” Wehrle stated.
Horan expressed the urgency of getting the van quickly, saying “we need to find someone who can do it in 30 days.”
Council focus then shifted to the purchase of a mini excavator with a quoted price of $87,500. While the town has a larger backhoe for big jobs, some work requires more precision. The proposed purchase would have a smaller footprint, bring less risk of damaging costly infrastructure, and keep personnel from taking longer on jobs using shovels to move earth.
Council member Keely Smith asked about progress on a town website. Elizabeth Scott replied that the town was checking out options to allow for payments online. Wehrle added that “we need to do backend stuff on the server, but that’s small potatoes.”
Horan called upon Scott to give a report on the progress and impact of the town’s Winter Wonderland in the Park festivity. Scott started by explaining that “it went off really well. We decorated the park. We had a $1,000 donor and Pendleton Community Bank donated as well.”
She then added that “learning what went well and what didn’t is a good thing and that they wish to add more to the park next year.”
“Our vendors were great,” Scott said. Approximately 40 people turned out for breakfast at the community building, requiring volunteers to erect additional tables. She related that out of 240 hot dogs prepared for lunch 190 were sold, making it a success.
The event also included a parade and visit with Santa in the park. Although “the weather is never our friend when it comes to outdoor events,” Scott said, “a lot of people lined the streets” for the parade as “Santa gave his usual monetary gifts to the kids.”
She praised businesses who participated in the pole decorating contest and/or donated to the event. “Businesses understand how important it is to be helpful,” Scott stated.
Horan added praise for Winter Wonderland in the Park, saying “it was well attended. We were drinking hot cider and hot chocolate.” The mayor also helped volunteers hand out hot dogs.
Scott revealed that town hall will join in the Christmas spirit in 2023, saying that “next year we will have the outside of the town office decorated as a gingerbread house.”
Council member Genevieve Glover shared citizen concerns about the condition of the wreaths used to decorate town poles. Horan responded by saying “we’re working on that.” Wehrle explained that replacing the wreaths could involve significant cost. “They’re considered a commercial wreath,” he said, then added that “they are $2,500 a piece, but they are built tough. They’re built to last 20 years.” He also explained that some have asked about replacing the town Christmas tree, which would cost $50,000.
Scott noted that Harrisonburg, Virginia, bought snowflakes for $450 apiece. Whatever the decision, Wehrle said “you have got to foot the money if you want them to last more than a year or two.”