Published in Williamson Herald 2/24/12
By Ken Moore
Growth and Consequences Franklin’s Infrastructure needs to keep pace with growth
Truth or Consequences was a popular NBC game show in the 1950s hosted by Ralph Edwards that mixed a trivia question with wacky stunts. Contestants had only a few seconds to answer before “Beulah the Buzzer” sounded. Usually the questions were two pronged and if the contestant didn’t get the “truth” question correct, then there were “consequences.” Most often the consequences were an embarrassing moment or an occasional heart-rending surprise.
There may be a few analogies that can be made to this game show when we look at the results of growth in Franklin and the consequences thereof. The questions that we ask ourselves about what to do next often don’t have an answer and the consequences of not knowing the answer may be surprises down the road. This was the case just a few years ago when we wrestled with expansion of our water treatment plant and construction of a new wastewater plant. There were many opinions on solutions but the technical evidence to support these expensive projects was lacking or inconclusive.
Much has been said about the phenomenal growth that occurred in Franklin from 2000 to 2010; the recent census data reports an increase of 49 percent in population. With this growth have come positive changes such as the creation of over 2000 jobs in 2011, the lowest unemployment rate in the state, corporate relocations, and quality of life improvements. Negatives include an increase demand on city services and infrastructure. All areas of the city’s infrastructure have experienced growth pressure including roads and streets, water supply and treatment, wastewater treatment and disposal, and solid waste disposal. Additional compounding factors include an aging infrastructure in a 200-year-old city and new regulatory demands.
Other communities across the country also have experienced similar growth and are facing challenges in making costly upgrades and repairs to their aging infrastructure, which includes drinking water and wastewater conveyance and treatment facilities. This has created the need for new investment in infrastructure. Some communities have been proactive; those that have not have run into compliance issues. Major cities across America have been hit with consent orders and mandated expenditures because of failure to be proactive. The expenditures are in the billions of dollars to bring systems up to standards and there have been associated penalties in the millions of dollars.
Franklin has chosen to be proactive rather than reactive as evidenced by a number of long range plans being created by the city and by affiliated organizations that study our future needs. One such study is the Integrated Water Resource Plan (IWRP) that began almost two years ago and will be completed later this month. This project takes a holistic approach to managing water resources including drinking water, wastewater, reclaimed water and storm water, along with their interaction and interrelation with the Harpeth River. Franklin is the first community in the state to take on this sort of wide-ranging, long-term approach and the one the first communities in the nation to use such a planning tool related to a river resource.
The end result is that the city, through a stakeholder participation process, will have developed a roadmap for making investments to improve water, wastewater, reclaimed water, and storm water. A list of preferred alternatives for these areas will have been developed from detailed technical analysis and conceptual designs as to site selection, sizing, and current and future performance needs. It also will include detailed cost analysis and a financial preparation for implementation of the plan.
The final approval of projects will eventually depend on the Board of Mayor and Alderman and funding will be from the development community and users of these facilities. There will be difficult decisions to be made for our future but the recommendations will be based on the best evidence available. As the final recommendations come to light, we should keep in mind being proactive rather than reactive. The city of Franklin should set an example for other communities as we travel this roadmap to our future needs.