Things have been relatively quiet in Franklin County government since the fight over the budget.
I like to focus this column on issues pertaining to Franklin County, so I have held off on writing for a few weeks. There are more than enough talking heads out there on national issues.
With that being said, I would like to give a few updates on what has been going on.
The proposed Budget Committee should help the budget process going forward. A Budget Committee will have increased scrutiny and greater representation for Franklin County’s taxpayers as one commissioner from each district will be appointed.
The current Finance Committee only has four commissioners and two of them can potentially be from the same district. The Finance Committee won’t be going away if a Budget Committee is passed, although it’s role will change somewhat.
There are some final details being worked out but my hope is we can implement the Budget Committee and improve our budgeting process before next year’s starts. Franklin County’s taxpayers cannot afford for us to fail to plan for the future or continue to raise taxes to cover rising expenses.
I serve on the Long Range Planning Committee. I feel this committee is extremely important because Franklin County has suffered from a lack of planning in the past.
One area we have spent a lot of time on is the incinerator project. Solid-waste costs are constantly increasing. Tennessee is running out of landfill space and there are no more being built. In roughly five years, we will be out of space at our current landfill.
Even if we come up with a way to send our waste out-of-state to a cheaper landfill, it will simply be delaying the problem. Eventually other states will be in the same situation Tennessee is in regarding landfill space.
One thing is for certain, if something is not done soon, we will be paying $1 million a year in fees to dispose of our trash. An incinerator is definitely expensive but it is also a very long-term solution.
Solid Waste Director William Anderson has been doing a lot of the legwork on this issue and the county is actively pursuing grants and other ways of financing the project with little to no impact on the tax rate.
When you consider the incinerator can provide electric power to the grid as well as steam to our industrial park along with handling industrial waste which currently has to be shipped hundreds of miles, then the benefits of such a facility for industrial recruitment become obvious. Attracting more industry will expand our tax base and help alleviate some of the pressure on property owners.
I also serve on the Technology Committee.
One issue we have been trying to find a solution to is high-speed fiber-optic broadband access in Franklin County.
State Sen. Janice Bowling has been a leading proponent of expanded access for some time now. Current regulations at the state level are very protective of legacy telephone and cable monopolies and make it difficult for competitors to enter areas even if the legacy carriers don’t want to provide the same service.
Earlier this year, we signed a letter of support for Ben Lomand’s application for a USDA grant to expand fiber broadband in the Sewanee area. Fiber-optic service is quite often cheaper, faster, and more reliable than older, copper-based technologies such as cable modems.
United Communications has recently rolled out fiber access to certain areas in Estill Springs. We are looking at ways to help them expand their footprint in Franklin County.
It seems likely that several companies will wind up serving different areas of the county. We are hoping to find a way to bring fiber-optic access into the industrial park.
Companies routinely ask what type of internet access is available to them when considering potential locations. Fiber access is a major recruiting tool in our modern economy.
As always, I encourage you to contact your commissioners. We work for you.
Committee meetings are rarely attended and full commission meetings don’t have much better attendance unless there is a big, hot-button issue.
The more informed and involved the citizenry is, the better our form of government works.
Greg King is the Franklin County District 4, Seat A commissioner and a Decherd police sergeant.