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Housing Authority moving to new home

The Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority is in negotiations to purchase a new office.

Its current one at 100 Fourth Ave. will soon be sold to the city of Franklin for use by the city’s Department of Social Services.

“We are working on a contract right now,” said the housing authority’s interim executive director, Gwendolyn Blue. She would not, however, disclose exactly where the FRHA’s new home would be, citing the ongoing contract negotiations.

City Manager Amanda Jarratt said the transition would likely take several months once the sale of the building is finalized. The move likely wouldn’t happen until the end of the year.

Franklin’s City Council, on April 26, voted 6-1 to appropriate $430,000 from its unassigned fund balance to purchase the former bank building at 100 Fourth Ave. from the FRHA.

In February, the council had discussed including the expenditure in the $5.5 million it is planning to borrow primarily to fund its share of the Southampton County Courthouse renovation project, which is set to break ground this September. But according to Jarratt, the city must close on the FRHA sale before the courthouse financing will become available.

Councilman Greg McLemore was the dissenting vote, and the abstaining one on a subsequent 6-0 vote to allow the city to reimburse itself for the $430,000 out-of-pocket expense once the financing is completed.

The reimbursement vote followed a roughly 25-minute closed session to discuss the “investment of public funds where competition or bargaining is involved, where, if made public initially, the financial interest of the governmental unit would be adversely affected.”

The current social services building, another former bank at 306 N. Main St., has had mold and other maintenance issues over the past few years, particularly with its basement.

The city is anticipating a 5-cent real estate tax increase will be needed to pay back the courthouse project loan money once it becomes available. But no tax increases are proposed for the city’s upcoming 2021-2022 budget.