PHOTO: Vicki Yates of News Channel 5 served as moderator for Franklin’s State of the City event Wednesday morning, delivering questions to Mayor Ken Moore (center) and City Administrator Eric Stuckey. // Photos by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
The city of Franklin’s annual State of the City address took a little less than an hour Wednesday morning, but was packed with the year’s accomplishments, goals for the future and a few challenges along the way.
The presenters — Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and City Administrator Eric Stuckey, who were interviewed by Vicki Yates of News Channel 5 — even took the time to ceremoniously bid adieu to the city’s blue bag recycling program and its icon, “Buddy Blue Bag.” Franklin residents will begin using a blue bin — aka “Bin Franklin” — to haul their recycling material to the curb beginning next January.
“This will help greatly in recycling,” Stuckey told the audience at the Rolling Hills Community Church. “The bag had become a barrier. … We really want to continue to encourage recycling.”
Using this year’s theme, Investing in Franklin’s Future, and the initiative known as Invest Franklin as the backdrop, Moore and Stuckey fielded several questions from Yates regarding what the city had achieved in the past year and what it plans to accomplish in the next year and beyond.
Stuckey listed several projects already under way or will be soon, including the Mack Hatcher Parkway extension from Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 West; the 233-acre Southeast park planned for the South Carothers area; and the construction of the new water reclamation facility, the city’s largest project ever at over $130 million.
“Invest Franklin is a whole lot more than just a long list of projects,” Moore said. “It’s how they’re addressing infrastructure and the demands that are placed on us by growth in our community. We have about $700 million worth of projects. We’ve already done about $170 million and over the next five years we’re going to double that.”
Yates asked each of the city’s leaders what challenges they face, and Moore said his main concern is the mental health crisis.
“We’re very proud of our city police and fire departments and the safety they provide our community,” Moore explained, “but they’re on the front lines of a significant crisis. It’s all over our entire state and country, and that’s mental health issues, whether it’s the opioid crisis or suicide. … [First responders are] putting themselves in danger.
“We plan to create a blue ribbon panel in our community to look at this issue and see how we can get out more in front of the public and understand what the options are for people in that dark spot.”
In addition to the list of city projects, Moore and Stuckey spoke to the importance of historic preservation and cultural awareness as key factors of quality of life in Franklin. For instance, Moore pointed out the transformation that will soon be taking place at the campus of the former O’More College of Design, which was purchased by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County. The downtown Franklin campus’ name has been changed to Franklin Grove Estate & Gardens, and the future iteration of the place has been described as a mini-Cheekwood after the large mansion and garden site in Nashville.
Stuckey mentioned what has become known as the “fuller story,” an effort by three local church pastors and a historian to install markers on the town square that will provide a more complete account of what occurred in downtown Franklin before, during and after the Civil War.
“I think it’s a great way to tell more of a complete picture of the story to both ourselves, our citizens, and to the many visitors that come to Franklin every year,” Stuckey said.
Moore said the key to keeping Franklin a desirable place to live is to not let its growth outpace control of that growth.
“We want to make sure Franklin continues to be a place where people want to live and raise a family,” they mayor said. “We’re a very unique city. We have something special, and I can’t draw it, I can’t paint it. I can’t even explain what that is. I call it the x-factor, but it’s something that can completely go away. So certainly the growth of Franklin has increased the traffic, increased the infrastructure demands in our community. But we are blessed with a very, very special community.”
Visit the city of Franklin’s Facebook page to view a video of the full State of the City address.