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Mayor: Construction efforts, upgrades will soon yield growth

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Last year a major Franklin road was reconstructed and facelifts began on downtown buildings, and residents should expect more construction leading to more economic growth in 2014, the mayor said.

In his annual state of the city address, Mayor Joe McGuinness noted how often he was using the words project and grant while recapping 2013 successes and what’s ahead for this year.

Franklin completed road projects on North Main Street and around the courthouse downtown, started a citywide street repair program, renovated and added slides at its aquatic center and launched several facade projects to restore downtown storefronts. This year the city will tackle the second section of reconstruction on North Main Street, pave three downtown streets and continue planning to rebuild State Road 44 and add 3.5 miles of new trails around the northeast side of the city.

The city accomplished all of those projects last year by getting millions in state grants and spending money from the city’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts. Franklin also plans to spend $260,000 less this year after saving money from transferring city vehicles to liquid propane fuel and having city dispatchers become county employees. The city was able to put $635,000 in savings last year.

With the work done so far, the city will not only have better roads, sidewalks, and drainage for residents and businesses, but will continue to jump-start new economic and residential growth. Some of that growth has already started, McGuinness said.

“We must maintain a comfortable level of savings for that rainy day, but we need to continue to invest in our community,” McGuinness said.

New investments will mostly be made in infrastructure, such as more road, sidewalk, lighting and trails projects planned over the next few years.

Franklin completed the first phase of work on North Main Street ahead of schedule last year and is getting ready to start on the second half by the end of the month. Residents can expect to see similar streetscape work to add new sidewalks, lighting and landscaping along State Road 44 and other areas downtown.

“It shows you just a small snippet of what we have planned for the next few years,” McGuinness said.

Projects to rebuild State Road 44 from west of U.S. 31 to Interstate 65 won’t start this year, but the city is designing the projects in order to start the first phase in 2015. The overall project may cost about $20 million to complete and take up to four years, but Franklin has received more than $15 million in grants to pay for the work, McGuinness said.

Another grant will allow the city to add 3.5 miles of new trails along Eastview, Arvin and Commerce drives to U.S. 31, increasing the amount of pedestrian and bike paths by 33 percent. More trails will improve quality of life, which makes people want to live in Franklin and

also helps sway businesses to locate here, McGuinness said.

City officials also have pledged to start an aggressive paving and repair program for city streets, which McGuinness said were neglected for too long. Crews will continue repaving the worst roads, fixing cracks and sealing pavement that should help keep roads in better condition longer and save money.

“Every single street in the city will receive work in the next five years,” McGuinness said.

Infrastructure and improvement projects are already starting to attract new development, McGuinness said. The city welcomed 11 new shops in and around downtown. Seven businesses expanded or built new industrial space in 2013. And a developer is planning to build the first new subdivision in Franklin in about 10 years, bringing upscale homes to the east side of the city.

This year, renovations will be complete on the downtown Hazelett building and the city will complete historic restorations of eight downtown buildings after switching contractors, McGuinness said.

“We had a successful 2013 and have a very, very busy 2014 planned. So it’s time for us to get back to work for you,” McGuinness said.

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