Mayor Harris lauds city hall rehab, flood control stucture

Mayor Raymond Harris has been saying for the past few years that Franklin had many bright spots on the horizon and in the works.
This year the mayor’s promises began to be fulfilled.
In 2013 Harris said the city saw “a very fruitful, productive year for us. It’s been a great year for us and there’s more on the horizon as we go into 2014.”
Among the top contenders is the purchase of the former E.A. Crowell Elementary School which has housed city hall for many years. The city purchased the old school for $35,000 from the St. Mary Parish School Board but it was in need of extensive repairs.
“We’re in the first stage of three in $2.8 million in repairs,” Harris said. “We’re in the water intrusion phase; we’ve put on the new roof and they’ve cleaned the bricks and are doing mortar work. They’ll be sealed so that water won’t seep in anymore. They’ve redone our parking lot area in the back of the building and the sidewalks so that it slopes away from the building so the water won’t come back into the building.”
All that, and what’s to come, was the result of Gov. Bobby Jindal searching for a location to create a gubernatorial archive for former Gov. Mike Foster. Sen. Bret Allain and Rep. Sam Jones convinced Jindal that city hall would be the ideal place, with the historic building’s third floor auditorium ideal for such a repository.
“We’re excited about that,” Harris said. “There’s going to be a new breezeway and (they’ll) move the stairs outside the building to a new location. I’m excited about the project. The electrical and heating and cooling system, plumbing, and then the third floor. City hall has not only a home but the building itself has a future now. It’s a great building and we’re making it better, extending the life of it.”
He said the archive is a “great way to preserve our history.”
The committee overseeing development of the archive has been meeting regularly each month, Harris said. Architectural renderings will be coming soon.
The city has just completed overlaying 21 streets in Franklin at a cost of about $850,000. That’s the second time the city has taken on a set of streets for resurfacing and other improvements.
“I’ve got another crew going around doing patchwork,” Harris said. “I realize how many streets need attention, and I may get this crew, if they do a good job, to come in on a regular basis to touch streets up. I’m trying to establish an ongoing maintenance program. Instead of putting that cold patch in a hole we’re coming back with a section of new concrete or asphalt.”
Harris said streets are costly but with a plan in place to maintain them on a regular basis “we’ll continue to improve our streets rather than them just falling apart.”
The water tower near Foster Street was rehabilitated this year to the tune of $400,000. It was cleaned, resealed and repainted, Harris said.
Sewer lift stations, of which there are 22, have received half a million dollars in work. “We went to the heart of the lift stations,” Harris said. “We redid electrical panels, we redid the pumps and just changed out a lot of the main components that were wearing down from years of use. We extended the service life of them. All of them got some major attention.”
Those stations are “good to go” for another 15-20 years, the mayor said.
A top-tier accomplishment in 2013 was construction of the $5.74 million flood control structure on the Franklin canal. “That is probably the biggest story, a major addition and improvement to Franklin,” Harris said. “We’re hoping that will lower flood insurance rates in the future. We’ll be operating it.”
The city is also renovating the fire station, which is continuing.
“It’s been a good year across the board for us,” Harris said.
Caffery Park received ball field expansion work to help host state ball tournaments, Harris said, as well as help local teams play on a better facility.
The mayor pointed out that the Christmas decorations continue to grow downtown, and the lighting ceremony also is increasing in participation.
“I think we’re going to use the Teche Theatre a lot more for concerts,” he said. “I think we’re going to see more things there.”
The mayor said there are other projects coming in 2014, including a major drainage project, more water plant work, action on the Center Theater and more.
“I see continued progress for the coming year,” he said.

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