Recently local mayors spoke at Franklin Tomorrow’s “Breakfast with the Mayors” about Williamson County’s slow return to some sense of what life was like before COVID-19. The recent announcement by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), that states masks will no longer be mandatory for those who have been vaccinated will likely speed up that return.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Dr. Walensky said during a COVID-19 briefing at the White House. The CDC also launched Interim Public Health Recommendations for Vaccinated People.
The CDC announcement will be great news for the county, as Franklin Mayor Ken Moore said, “We are well positioned to be an economic leader in the state as we come out of the pandemic.”
Many of the top corporations in the country have their main offices located here, and 20% of the management positions in the state are located in Williamson County.
County Mayor Rogers Anderson noted that 50% of the adult population has had at least one shot of the vaccine. The county, businesses, and the schools worked together to get shots to all of those wanting to be vaccinated.
“They gave out 80,000 vaccinations at the Ag Center,” said Anderson. “It was a blessing to have such a great facility.” As a matter of fact, those going through the vaccinations at the Williamson County Ag Expo Park didn’t even have to get out of their cars.
All three mayors have been in constant communication from the beginning of the pandemic. They met three times a week during the height of the pandemic together with their city managers, other mayors, and health officials to stay apprised of the constantly changing situation – both informationally and best practices. With the help of medical advisors, the mayors used the most current scientific facts to make decisions about how to handle public health, and the various elements included in shutting down and opening back up the economy.
As people are going back to work, the mayors are continuing to keep on top of relevant issues. These issues include what going back to “normal” will look like. Will everyone be going back to the office? If not, what effect will that have on office building usage, traffic flow, and even daycare needs. For example, a transit study of the Cool Springs area is currently underway.
“We are back to the same traffic counts as pre-pandemic,” said Mayor Moore, “but the timing is different.”
Housing is another issue they are currently exploring, During the pandemic the housing market exploded, making it currently an intense seller’s market. Houses are going for thousands over the asking price during frequent bidding wars. This will affect property taxes in the coming years, including rate adjustments as property appraisals rise.
“Some areas will go up significantly,” said Moore. “Some more moderately. Whatever the adjustment, the tax rate must be neutral.”
The crazy housing market is also causing the mayors to look at affordable housing projects. One of these projects the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen is currently discussing. It involves turning city owned “The Hill” property into an affordable housing development. The site is located on 5th Avenue North, and was once the location of the city public works department.
Other topics that COVID-19 has brought sharply into focus for the mayors is getting broadband to more people. All of the virtual work and schooling have made that a necessity that can no longer be ignored.
Amazingly, in spite of the upheavals of the pandemic, the city and the county ended up on a high note fiscally, placing them in a better position to work on these issues as the county heads back to old routines, and maybe some better new ones.