Downtown Franklin cloudy

As Gov. Bill Lee rolls out his plan to recharge the state’s economy after a lengthy lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, city of Franklin officials have been implementing a strategy to do the same at the local level.

In fact, Mayor Ken Moore and City Administrator Eric Stuckey met with city department leaders and all eight aldermen Friday morning in a special-called Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session that preceded the governor’s mid-morning press conference. Aldermen heard how various departments have been adjusting to the outbreak over the past several weeks and how some are preparing to take next steps. 

There are plans to begin reopening some of the city’s nonessential businesses and restaurants in phases and with caution, given the uncertainty that still exists.

“We are in an extremely challenging time,” Moore said in the virtual Zoom meeting. “We have reached a point to where we’re looking at health versus the economy. We’ve had our ‘Kumbaya’ moments in talking about how good everybody is doing, but these are still very uncertain times. We’re still at risk for a flareup and increased numbers and we can’t let our guard down at this time, even though we have hope that we see going into the future with restaurants and businesses opening.”

Aldermen heard from Finance & Administration, Public Works, Development Services, Franklin Police, Franklin Fire and Communications, with some leaders summarizing how their staff are adjusting and some rolling out next-step plans. There seemed to be a consensus among aldermen that it’s time to let businesses and restaurants reopen, and one suggested it’s nearly past time.

“I think the business community and the small businesses and all the things we see shut down, I think they’re anxious — beyond anxious — to get started back up,” Alderman at-large Clyde Barnhill said. “We are looking at possibly some real implications nationwide with some of the things that we have done. So the quicker we get some of the businesses opened up, the better off I believe the community is and will get back to some sort of normalcy.” 

In addition to reopening businesses and restaurants, the city is looking to do the same for some of its park facilities such as dog parks, tennis courts, skate parks and equestrian trails. 

Moore, who said a virtual state of the city address is planned for May 15, anticipates he’ll renew his stay-at-home executive order to the end of April after it’s set to expire Tuesday. As for how citizens have been staying within guidelines of the order, Franklin Police Chief Deborah Faulkner said no misdemeanor citations have been issued despite an apparent rumor to the contrary. 

“I don’t know how that rumor got started,” she said. “People have been extremely compliant with that order.

“We continue to be highly visible in the community, in our parking areas, neighborhoods, business areas, schools,” Faulkner added. “We want to provide our citizens with a feeling of security, and I think they really like seeing our officers out there. Community policing has never been more important than it is now.”

From a monetary standpoint, Stuckey warned of the city having to adjust to a “new financial reality. Our general fund is funded nearly three-quarters by consumption-based taxes, so we know a significant revenue reduction is coming — a revenue shock.”

Still, Stuckey had a note of cautious optimism as he summarized the city’s approach to recovery from the pandemic.

“We talked about being safe, resilient and adaptable in everything we do,” he said. “The bottom line is, we’re here for the community and we’re here to serve. When we look at the city, we will continue to look at ways and opportunities to roll back to more normal operations.”