FRANKLIN — During the city’s inaugural celebration Mayor Tony Giunta “trash talked” the Citizen of the Year, and the recipient was delighted.
“You may not have seen his face, but I’m sure you have seen his back picking up trash,” Giunta said.
Jeff Perkins has volunteered for the past three years to pick up litter along streets and state highways that stretch through Franklin. On average he walks up to 10 miles a day and has been known to fill up to 20 trash bags with roadside debris in a single outing. The city provides the bags and picks them up once they’re filled by Perkins, who offers free sweat equity to the community he loves.
“I never saw this coming; I enjoy what I do, even it it’s picking up trash,” said a surprised Perkins when he was called to the lectern to receive the award from Mayor Giunta during the City Council’s first meeting of the New Year held Monday.
In his state of the city address, Giunta said he had some good news, some bad news and some great news.
“After my inauguration I told you all the good reasons you should invest in the City of Franklin. If you heeded my advice you got a 20 percent return based on property tax assessment. That means people see value in our city and want to pay for it,” he said.
“Now the bad news: The value of our property is increasing and those who want to stay here are having to pay more taxes and that’s not good for anyone,” he continued. “To reverse that we have to grow our tax base by getting people to come to our city, buy property and improve it.”
The great news, according to Giunta, is that is exactly what is happening. He cited Tannery Street as among the many examples of where new economic development is taking place. That area has been under-performing for decades, but recently sold property and plans there call for the old buildings to be refurbished and new ones added.
Franklin Savings Bank purchased three buildings on Central Street in a $4.1 million deal and plans to refurbish those as well.
“Franklin Savings has always been there for the city through thick and thin. They are a 150-year-old conservative savings bank. What type of message does that send?” he said.
Within a day of news of the purchase, Guinta recalled fielding a phone call from a Bedford developer interested to learn what was sparking the boom.
Mill City Park, a premier whitewater kayaking destination on the Winnipesaukee River, is scheduled to break ground this spring and bring with it $6.5 million in economic activity, Guinta said.
“On and on it goes. It’s not just pipe dreams anymore. The horse is out of the barn with the wagon and is moving very quickly,” Giunta said.
The city is now home to a one-megawatt solar array that produces enough energy to light 100 homes. While many communities have rejected leasing land to such projects or negotiating a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, Franklin has welcomed renewable energy development with open arms.
“Not bad for a community once billed a dying mill city,” Giunta declared.
During ceremonies in the council chambers at City Hall, City Solicitor Paul Fitzgerald swore in returning Ward 1 Councilor Jo Brown, Ward 3 Councilor Scott Clarenbach and newly elected Ward 2 Councilor Karen Testerman, who won her seat defeating incumbent Oliva Zink by just a single vote.
Fitzgerald also delivered the oath of office to incumbent School Board members Susan Hallett-Cook, representing Ward 2, and Deborah L. Brown from Ward 3.