By JOHN McBRYDE
A lot happened in Franklin in the last 12 months. As the new year begins, let’s take a moment to reflect on the highlights of 2018.
In one sense, the year could be framed by the arrival in January of construction cranes on the Harpeth Square development in downtown Franklin and the groundbreaking in December for the Mack Hatcher Northwest Quadrant project.
With that, here is a chronological look at some of Franklin’s top news in 2018.
Three months after ground was broken on the Harpeth Square development in downtown Franklin, the first crane appeared. The project is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2019.
Meanwhile, residents of the Grassland area started the year on something of a sad note when owners of Grassland Foodland announced they were closing the grocery store. Tractor Supply would open in that spot later in the year.
Voters in Williamson County voted overwhelmingly for a sales tax increase after a Feb. 2 referendum was held. By a margin of 66.1 percent for to 33.9 percent against, the measure raised the sales tax from 2.25 to 2.75 percent to help fund schools.
Later in the month, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney was arrested on a charge of assault stemming from an incident at Franklin High School. He was later exonerated when Judge Tom Taylor dismissed the case in court in April.
Also in February, Belmont University announced it was purchasing O’More School of Design in downtown Franklin and would move the college to its campus in Nashville.
A longtime meat-and-three fixture in Nashville announced it would be opening a location in Cool Springs, and two months later Elliston Street Soda Shop held its grand opening.
In another country cooking-themed news item, a property management company in Franklin got approval for a new development on the site where Dotson’s Restaurant had operated for decades before closing down a few years ago. Chartwell Hospitality is currently moving forward with its proposed two-story, mixed-use development that will include a rooftop bar at 99 East Main St.
The city of Franklin’s two parking garages commenced to go hi-tech when the installation of parking capacity screens began. It took a while to work out some glitches, but the screens would soon be fully operating.
Tiny Little Donuts, a business that operates out of an Airstream trailer, opened on Fifth Avenue in Franklin after having been temporarily located in Grassland. Mark and Tammy Mogul are owners of the popular donut business that serves the bite-size delicacies daily until they sell out.
Franklin city officials unanimously approved a $1.45 million request to purchase body and car dash cameras for Franklin Police officers, thereby linking the devises to each other for more effective service.
In another restaurant opening in downtown Franklin, the co-owner of Gray’s on Main joined others for a ribbon cutting on the O’ Be Joyful whiskey and burger bar. Joni Cole told attendees the place was named for the nickname Civil War soldiers gave their homemade brew.
Longtime Franklin business Parks Realty became the first leased tenant at the new Harpeth Square development scheduled to be completed later this fall. Bob Parks, owner of the real estate company, signed a 10-year lease during the announcement ceremony.
Also in June, longtime Heritage Foundation of Williamson County staffer Kristy Williams resigned her position to pursue other personal passions and to focus on family. Williams, the executive director of the Downtown Franklin Association’s Main Street Program, pledged to continue her involvement with the Heritage Foundation as a volunteer.
Parking time limits in downtown Franklin were cut in half from four hours to two after the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the measure. The resolution also increased parking citation fees from $10 to $20.
Three Franklin pastors presented plans to construct historical markers that would help to tell a “fuller story” of the Civil War, including the recognition of the slave market in Williamson County. Pastor Kevin Riggs, Pastor Hewitt Sawyers and Dr. Chris Williamson were joined by Battle of Franklin Trust CEO Eric Jacobson in presenting the idea before a BOMA work session.
Chick-fil-A announced it would be opening two new restaurants in Franklin, one in Berry Farms and the other at the former location of Rite Aid on Murfreesboro Road.
The annual Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival had its first rough patch after storms caused an early end to Saturday’s event and conditions completely canceled Sunday’s activities. The cancelations also brought to light issues in the handling of the incident, which was addressed later in the year by Pilgrimage organizers.
Franklin and Williamson County faith, business and civic leaders came together to create a nonprofit named Unite Williamson and hosted the city’s first interfaith prayer breakfast. Organizers, who included the Rev. Kenneth Hill of Shorter Chapel AME Church and Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, said the 2015 fatal shooting in a black Charleston church inspired the initiative.
A Spring Hill woman who lost her teenage son to suicide from the Natchez Trace Bridge formed a coalition to install barriers along the structure. Trish Merelo’s 17-year-old son, John Miller, took his life from the bridge in January 2016 after battling depression.
Tennessee House Rep. Charles Sargent died at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer. Representing the state’s District 61, Sargent had served in that seat since 1997. He continued unopposed for reelection to that seat for the first 10 years. He left behind his wife of more than 40 years, Nancy, his two children and two granddaughters.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer joined state and local officials in Franklin Tuesday morning to break ground on the long-awaited Mack Hatcher Northwest Quadrant that will connect Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 West. Construction on the $45 million project should start in early 2019 and is expected to be completed in September 2021.
By a 5-3 vote on second and final reading, Franklin aldermen voted to effectively ban the retail sales of commercially bred dogs and cats at pet stores in the Franklin city limits. The ordinance would only restrict any future retailers from selling dogs or cats that would be sourced from so-called puppy mills or kitten mills.