City Hall may stay at Crowell if funding met

Franklin City Hall may stay where it is, Mayor Raymond Harris said Tuesday in a special budget workshop meeting held by the city council.

The mayor said if a series of financing solutions falls into place, the city’s best option is to stay in the former E.A. Crowell Elementary School building and renovate it.

Harris proposed paying off two bond issues, one with a $79,000 payoff in the liquid and solid waste fund. He suggested then bonding another $450,000 for sewer lift station repairs.

Also, another bond issue, the payoff is $600,000, with $150,000 in reserves and another $39,000 in the debt sinking fund. “We could use that cash and that would only be about $405,000 to pay it off,” Harris said.

The city would then issue a $1.5 million bond, with $715,000 for street repairs and $750,000 for city hall.

That would pay for $35,000 to purchase city hall from the St. Mary Parish School board and immediate repairs.

“About a month ago I contacted the school board about a mold problem we had in the building,” Harris said. “I had some employees getting sick, one of them I had to move. I was hoping they’d go in half with us on waterproofing the building.”

But the school board refused, noting that the city’s contract for lease of the building lays maintenance and repair squarely in Franklin’s responsibility.

Harris said after conferring with council members, and an initial estimate of $2.5 million in total repairs came from a survey, he didn’t think the city could stay in the old school building.

Other buildings were considered, Harris said, and the “best alternative, if it’s affordable, is to stay here. We have all the room we need, all the parking we need…the big issue is affordability.”

There are three hurdles, Harris said. The first is health issues due to water intrusion into the structure of the building, at a cost of $747,000.

Electrical problems will cost the city about $270,000, Harris said. “I think we can get to that number,” Harris said.

Finally, Harris said if the city must legally bring the building into full compliance, the city can’t finance it and stay.

State Rep. Sam Jones told the council that the state fire marshal toured the building last week and “recognized that this is a historic structure. There is a lot of leeway they can give and will give…the architect he brought with him was very cooperative and very helpful in trying to find us ways to accommodate what we need to do. And he was pretty clear that his impression was the same, take care of your health issues first and the rest of that can come when you can afford to do it.”

Jones said Sen. Brett Allain is also committed in helping the city with the health issues.

“If your bond issue is going to put up that portion of it, we’ll put up $200,000 plus,” Jones said.

He said both are committed to seeing the whole building renovated, and the third floor turned partially into a archival area for Franklin residents who served in state and U.S. public office, which opens up more funding opportunities.

Jones pointed out the cost of renovating the building still “pales in comparison” to building a new facility.

The council took no formal action on Harris’ proposal, but most council members voiced support for the idea.

In other business, several minor adjustments were made to the current fiscal budget, and both it and the current capital outlay budget, plus the proposed fiscal budget and capital outlay budget for next year, were all introduced as ordinances.

The council also passed a resolution on the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s Municipal Water Pollution Prevention report, adhering to its guidelines.

Jones also reported that he is at work on a bill creating a St. Mary Parish Economic Development Authority that he will present to the legislature.

Similar to neighboring parish authorities, Jones said details are still being worked out.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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