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Franklin panel cautious about building funds

– A city organization spent tax money on plans to renovate a downtown Franklin building and to explore an idea to form a nonprofit to attract youth sports events, but both projects were dropped without being completed.

Two other projects promised more than $300,000 in tax dollars, a downtown arts garden and a plan to build new restaurant space and shops, haven’t started, more than a year after the grants were approved. Several more projects that should have been finished by end of June are still being completed.

The Franklin Development Corp. now has eight incomplete projects totaling about $1.8 million. The board has extended deadlines through the end of the year for all unfinished projects, board President John Ditmars said.

The backlog of work is why Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness doesn’t want to give any new funding to the organization until the pending projects are finished. Board members have been making a list of new projects to take on, such as more façade renovations or fixing rundown homes, but McGuinness wants to hold off on granting any new money until old projects are done.

“Some of these projects, there is a lot of money involved, and some are potentially risky. The money from the FDC side should be a sound investment, so we’re not just throwing money out there in hopes of catching that next big project,” McGuinness told the Daily Journal.

In the past two years, the development agency offered more than $2 million total for projects that would help spur economic growth in Franklin. Those big projects turned out to be more complex to complete than expected.

Ideas that sounded good, like a nonprofit sports corporation, turned out to not be feasible after paying for more than $20,000 for professional studies. A $775,000 renovation of the Jarvis Alexander building on Monroe Street was plagued by permitting issues. Other projects haven’t progressed as quickly as anticipated because of problems buying property, lining up construction groups or waiting for the weather to break.