Franklin upgrades to water plant near halfway mark

Roughly $800,000 worth of work has been done to Franklin’s 40-year-old water plant, completing one-third of the planned upgrades, according to Mayor Raymond Harris.

Once complete, the project will cost taxpayers $2.3 million, he said.

The city council authorized the improvements after a state public health inspector issued a 2004 report criticizing the system’s poor water disinfection and several other problems.

Harris told the council at its regular meeting last week that water filters and valves and one water clarifier have been replaced. Also, a security-warning computer has been installed, he said.

To pay the tab, Harris said he pulled $500,000 from Franklin’s general fund. The remaining $300,000 was paid by the state through a grant.

The city council agreed in April to borrow most of the money needed for the project from the state via a 30-year bond issue at a rate of 3.9 percent.

The city supplies water to 3,100 paying customers, which benefits roughly 9,000 people, Harris said. In prior years, the city has adopted a “laissez faire” approach to repairing the aging facility because of a lack of funds, he explained.

The public health report, prepared by the state Office of Public Health and dated Oct. 18, 2004, listed 17 violations connected with the plant, which is located across Bayou Teche and west of the Eastwood Subdivision.

Dr. Gary Wiltz, chief medical and executive officer of Teche Action Clinic in Franklin, has maintained that although the violations are a concern, “the city water, for the most part, is safe.”

In other business, the city council:

• Amended its capital outlay budget to reopen the city swimming pool in 2009. The city, the parish and the school board will pay for more than $70,000 in repairs.

• Changed school zone times throughout the city to 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

• Granted Wal-Mart a liquor license.