Franklin juggles CDBG funds, eyes playground, paving work

Franklin City Council approved the repurposing of unused 2020 Community Development Block Grant funds to finance upgrades to the 11th Street playground, pending no adverse public comments, at its monthly meeting this week.

Community Development director Amanda Power requested that council approve eliminating three of the original 2020 CDBG Coronavirus CARES Act projects, which were assistance to food pantries, a coronavirus prevention program and business assistance grants.

Power said the community development department’s grant manager advised that due to regulations and restrictions, these programs would be “very difficult to carry out.”

Power also requested that council apply the unused $98,861 in funds for these programs, as well as $6,360 left over from the purchase of an emergency response vehicle for the Franklin fire department, to a new project to repair the 11th Street playground.

The playground is in a low-to-moderate income block and “in desperate need of fence replacement and equipment upgrades,” Power said.

Council approved the change in the use of funds, pending the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s extension of the 2020 CDBG contract, which was set to run out this month, city manager Tracy Jamieson said.

Council also approved a contract extension request for 2019 CDBG funds, which if approved would allow the city to carry out a paving project that had been delayed while the Franklin General Authority completed a waterline replacement in the area.

Public comment on the action will be taken until Nov. 22 at 4 p.m., Power said.

In another matter at this week’s meeting, council approved the first reading of the city’s new fireworks ordinance.

The law would require permitting for display fireworks and reiterate state restrictions on consumer fireworks within city limits.

City solicitor Brian Spaid said permits for display fireworks would be available through the fire department and that applications must be approved by the fire chief or other appropriate official designated by city council.

The ordinance doesn’t require a permit for consumer fireworks, but “the restrictions set forth in state law are set forth in this ordinance,” Spaid said.

The ordinance says that fireworks may only be set off from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. any day of the year with the exception of July 2, 3 and 4 and Dec. 31, as well as Memorial and Labor Days and their immediately preceding Fridays and Saturdays when fireworks may be set off until 1 a.m. the next day, Spaid said.

Fines for violation of the consumer fireworks law would be up to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense within three years of the first, he said.

“The penalties I know look steep, but they are straight from state law,” he said.

The ordinance doesn’t include ground and handheld sparkling devices, novelties or toy caps, Spaid added.

The second reading of the ordinance will be at next month’s council meeting, following which it would go into effect pending the panel’s approval.

In other business, council approved the General Authority’s extension of its contract with Mortimer’s Excavating so the city could do phase one of its Miller Park storm Water project at the same time the General Authority was doing waterline work in that area and “save money in the process,” Jamieson said.

The city’s portion of the work is now anticipated to cost $356,490, she said.

Council also approved applying for a grant of $411,240 from the Commonwealth Financing Authority for phase three of the Miller Park storm water project, which Jamieson said was the “most expensive” phase. She added that the project is not out for bid yet.

The grant requires the city to match 15 percent of the funds, or $72,572, she said.

And council awarded a contract for demolition of nine blighted structures in the city to Earthmovers Unlimited of Kylertown in the amount of $105,343.

That work will be financed with a blight remediation grant from the state, Jamieson said.

Mayor Doug Baker said he had received a request for additional handicapped parking in front of the YMCA, but council wasn’t certain whether the spaces lay within the city’s right-of-way and if the YMCA needed the city’s permission for the spaces.

“It’s something to look into,” Baker said.

Council member Ryan Rudegeair told the panel that some local businesses had received complaints from residents about the parking kiosks in the lots downtown.

Jamieson said the city has “no other option” since there hasn’t been a parking attendant since June.

“We are looking for someone,” she said.

Deputy mayor Donna Fletcher brought up concerns about traffic flow during Applefest when the entirety of West Park Street was closed for the 5K race.

“I think residents should be able to come up Elk and turn right and be able to get out of town,” she said. “I saw cars sit for 30 minutes.”

“That would be in the control of the police department,” Jamieson said.

And council members Christian Marshall and Samuel Lyons thanked Jamieson and the city for no tax increase in the tentative 2023 budget.

“I don’t know how you do it, but I hope you keep doing it,” Lyons remarked.


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