If there is one word that could sum up the city of Franklin’s State of the City address delivered over the weekend, it would have to be “health.”
In discussions with a handful of community leaders, Mayor Ken Moore presented his 10th State of the City address along with City Administrator Eric Stuckey. It was done virtually, of course.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of the ways we’ve done things, and this virtual State of the City is one of the those such things,” Moore said as he kicked off the 41-minute presentation.
Topics focused on the physical health of citizens as Cathy Montgomery from the Williamson County Health Department talked about the more than 5,000 people who have thus far been tested for the coronavirus at the county’s Ag Expo Center and elsewhere over the past several weeks. Mental health was touched on as Moore was joined by Amanda Fisher from the Franklin Special School District and Amy Alexander from the Refuge Center, discussing the new initiative Find Hope Franklin and the plan to begin QPR (question, persuade, refer) training to help recognize when individuals may be in crisis and possibly considering self-harm.
The economic health of businesses across the county was addressed by Matt Largen of Williamson Inc. and Ellie Westman Chin of the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The impact from the virus outbreak has been especially hard on small businesses, and tourism and convention activity has come to a halt. Largen and Chin both said efforts are underway to help in those matters.
“What we’ve been doing is really helping companies meet their immediate needs,” Largen said, “and that’s cash flow, rent relief and eventually getting customers back in when they feel comfortable and safe shopping and dining in Williamson County and Franklin.
Chin pointed out the most recent hotel occupancy in the county was 24%, compared to what was 80% a year ago. She said Visit Franklin is marketing tourism here in three different phases. The first begins soon, whereby they’re asking residents to consider staying close by for summer vacations and encouraging hotels to offer special “staycation” rates.
Phase 2 would be to attract the “drive markets,” those cities and areas that are relatively short drives for a long weekend. The final phase would be pre-pandemic marketing.
Finally, Stuckey spoke briefly about the health of Franklin’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The all funds budget has been reduced by 10.5% and the general fund by 10.2%.
“We’ve made reductions,” Stuckey said, “but we’re keeping staff on board and we’re making sure we’re here to serve and provide those vital services to the community.”