Town Investments Contribute to High Quality of Life, Says Hellen
By J.D. O’Gara
Last month, the Franklin Community Preservation Committee approved the town CPA plan for the upcoming year. The plan contains a number of improvement projects that will be funded from a surcharge Franklin households pay that is matched with some state funds
“The big one is the Nason Street Tot Lot, a recreation project,” said Jamie Hellen, Franklin Town Administrator, in an interview last month. “If you drove down, you’d see the park is still in decent shape, but it probably hasn’t had an upgrade in 20 years,” says Jamie Hellen, Town Administrator. “We’re replacing some of the equipment, doing some resurfacing and adding a platform for ADA accessibility for playground materials.” He adds that $300,000 for the project is currently an accurate assessment, “but these days, with costs rising, by the time the contract is settled, we might be a little over, a little under. “
Other projects to be funded include historical and open space sites, as well as affordable housing.
“I think the important part of the CPA plan is that we’re spreading the money around to all the available uses,” says Hellen. “It’s critical to do that every year. We bought Maple Hill open space last year, 70 acres in the center of town. We also are doing two huge projects for historical preservation, the cupola of the historical museum and the (restoration of) the Red Brick Schoolhouse, which has always fallen off the radar. Now, we’ll be able to restore the exterior, the brick, replace rotted wood and we’re bringing in a certified lead specialist to take paint off the doors and windows. We’ll make the exterior shine to its original glory.
“We’re contributing to the Franklin Ridge Project, our affordable housing, with dedicated fiscal year 2022 and 2023 funds (10% each year) for about $320, 000 for the two years,” adds Hellen. “I think on the affordable housing topic, that’s the biggest priority in town. It’s permitted, it’s shovel-ready and we’ve been fighting like crazy for state and federal funding. Housing is such a complicated issue right now.”
Hellen continues, “Support for recreation is huge (in Franklin). We are looking at doing an overhaul of the master plan of King Street Memorial Park, add a pickleball court to the ones in there, infrastructure, ball fields, bathroom, concession stand. We hope to have some architect designs, but it won’t be funded this year. We hope to have a public hearing in the later summer or early fall. We’re working with an engineering company to lay out a design. We need a rendering, plans to show people.”
Hellen points out that if town residents have a project they want to see CPA funds go to, they can fill out an application online or go to the Community Preservation web page on the town website.
As for the state of the town of Franklin, Hellen cannot contain his pride.
“The Town Council did approve the FY23 budget, which continues a lot of the investments in public infrastructure and stormwater and maintains our support for police and fire. The school district saw over $2 million increase last year, and while it’s not every dollar they need to get where they want to be, the reality is the town has made some investments in public education over the last seven years, and we’ll continue that.
“From our standpoint, we’re coming out of a pandemic, a pretty fractured time, and as we come out of this recovery, the town staff have been awarded a AAA bond rating, something we were told for years we would never be able to achieve and so that’s the ultimate team accomplishment, our Fire Department got an ISO1 designation, and only 450 fire departments out of 45,000 have that, and it’s an award that that also goes to our DPW, because our water system is 40% of the rating. Our police department (is up for accreditation), our school district is graduating kids at some of the highest levels they’ve ever seen, with all our programs winning awards.
Hellen continued, “You see these achievements, and the reality is that the quality of life in the Town of Franklin is exceptional. I feel very passionate about it. People in the town are very appreciative of the unity we have here, people are very appreciative of the quality of life we have here. We have to step back and enjoy the view. I hope everyone in town appreciates and doesn’t take for granted what’s happening in the town, given the rest of the world.”