By Stephen Smoot
Under gray and drizzly skies, the town council of Franklin met to go over infrastructure and equipment issues and hear progress on the same.
Mayor Bob Horan called the meeting to order. A representative from Thrasher gave an update on the water project. He shared that the project “is 183 days into a 455 day project,” and was “40 percent done.”
Town administrator Frank Wehrle added that “some equipment arrived slightly damaged and out of spec,” causing delays as they ordered replacement materials. He explained that they ought to “arrive in a couple of weeks.”
Going on with the update, the representative from Thrasher stated that the painting of the water tank “was substantially complete” and “back in service for a while now.” The rest of the materials needed to finish the project had been ordered and should arrive “in the next couple of weeks.” More information will be shared at the next council meeting.
The second phase will examine a water pipe crossing the South Branch River. Thrasher’s environmental division will analyze the best option against current regulations and make a future proposal. Considerations include the hardness of the rock underlying the river and also whether or not the Army Corps of Engineers would consider the river navigable this far upstream.
The council also discussed a proposed project for the Entry Mountain area, with a potential cost of between $3 and $4 million. The representative from Thrasher said, “We’re trying to find the best way to get it all grant funded.” This includes submitting a proposal to the state infrastructure council before the Oct. 10 deadline.
Bruce Minor, town councilman, asked if it would help to categorize Entry Mountain as a fire hazard after last spring’s wildfires. The representative agreed that they should “take pictures and document that this was a big problem; the more documentation the better.”
Wehrle then updated the council on the town’s upcoming sewer project, which will be handled by New River Engineers. They came to Franklin over a week ago to discuss the scope of work.
The plant will take the form of a sequencing batch reactor, or SBR, style facility. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “wastewater is added to a single ‘batch’ reactor, treated to remove certain undesirable components, and then discharged.”
Wehrle touted the benefits of an SBR system, notably its flexibility, saying, “It can be scaled to different configurations,” and can “expand down the road if something else comes along.” He added that the SBR’s capabilities to remove materials can be expanded if future regulations require it. Should the town require more capacity, it can add new modules to do so. He said that it will “mitigate what we need, but keep it as simple as possible.”
Moorefield and Petersburg already use versions of the SBR plant.
The project is still in the planning stages, but no information about cost has come yet.
Wehrle then informed the council that he located, after a lengthy search, a new cargo and work van, as well as a plow truck. One dealership had both vehicles and originally wanted over $100,000 for them, but he talked them down to under $95,000.
The current van “is in bad shape” and the town has used the plow truck for almost two decades. The council decided to use the remainder of the approximately $85,000 in ARPA funding, as well as additional monies from the budget, to purchase the vehicles.
Finally, creating a new full-time position that would include benefits was discussed. The position would combine the old part-time recreation director with other duties that would make the position useful and relevant all year long. Half of the proposed salary would come from the parks and recreation budget with the rest coming from the town. Wehrle said that the budget could easily accommodate the salary.
More information will be forthcoming at the October council meeting.