Focus on Franklin Series Part 3: A Whole Community

  • D.K. Motel owner Sara Tracy opens the door to one of her rooms recently. Tracy said she has seen fewer contractors and tourists coming to use her rooms, and more folks who receive help with temporary, emergency housing from the state.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • D.K. Motel owner Sara Tracy says she has seen fewer contractors and tourists coming to use her rooms, and more people who receive help with temporary, emergency housing from the state. ELODIE REED / Monitor staff

  • A sign welcomes people to Franklin at the intersection of Route 127 and Babbitt Road.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Tracey (right), who wished to have her last name withheld, talks with Lois Donaghy (holding 1-year-old Anistin) on a friend’s porch along West Bow Street in Franklin. Tracey doesn’t participate in the community often because she doesn’t feel like her input would matter. ELODIE REED/ Monitor staff

  • Sidewalks in Franklin, such as this one seen recently along Central Street, are a challenge for residents with disabilities to navigate. Without adequate revenue funds, however, the sidewalks often go without repair.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Many Franklin residents and officials are hopeful about increasing the city’s tax base if the Northern Pass project is approved and constructed.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/25/2016 12:15:47 AM

In her 23rd year of owning the D.K. Motel along Route 3A, Sara Tracy said she’s seen better times.

“Due to the economy up here, you’d be hard-pressed to sell it,” Tracy said as she ate lunch in front of the single-story motel with bright-yellow doors, plastic chairs out front and several cats lounging in the sun.

Most of the new businesses going into downtown Franklin are one-man shops with no staff, Tracy said, and lately she’s been seeing fewer contractors needing a place to stay, and fewer tourists.

In turn, Tracy has had more guests at D.K. Motel who are receiving aid from local, nearby welfare departments and are in need of short-term, emergency housing.

“That’s probably the single biggest thing,” she said.

Through her second job as the city’s welfare director, Tracy has also witnessed the effects of growing poverty in Franklin.

The American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the number of people in Franklin living below poverty level increased by half between 2010 and 2014, from 16 to 24 percent.

In addition, the same data show the percentage of Franklin residents receiving federal welfare benefits rose from 26.5 to 34.9 percent over the same time period.

One of the more prominent projects in the city is in response to the growing need. A partnership between the city, the Concord Area Trust for Community Housing, nonprofit PermaCityLife and property owner Ed Forster is helping to fund a $12 million renovation project that will turn one of Franklin’s abandoned mill buildings into dozens of affordable housing units.

From Tracy’s perspective, given all the efforts going into bolstering this city, it will become a successful community when it is an inclusive one. Local committees need diverse members, the local economy needs to provide jobs to more people in various living situations, and local schools need to set up all students for success.

“You have to get everyone,” she said. “And if not everyone has a voice, it’s not going to work.”

But right now, there are Franklin residents who don’t feel they have a voice – and say so.

Someone like Madeline Langlois says she isn’t ready to be active in the community yet. While tanning outside her South Main Street apartment on a recent sunny day, Langlois said she has been struggling with anxiety since the death of her husband four years ago. She doesn’t go out much because of it, and said it’s embarrassing to return to a supermarket after having a panic attack while standing in line at the register.

“When I’m ready, I’m going to go to a counselor,” she said. At the moment, though, Langlois was focusing on one thing at a time.

On the day she was interviewed, she said, “I just want to get some sun.”

Across the bridge over the Pemigewasset River, Tracey, who asked that her last name be withheld, was getting a haircut on a friend’s porch on West Bow Street. She’s lived in Franklin for several years, and at age 54, is receiving federal disability benefits due to injuries sustained in a car accident.

One of the biggest challenges for Tracey is getting around town on the sidewalks.

“A lot of people here don’t own vehicles or aren’t able to drive,” she said. “I walk everywhere I go – these sidewalks . . . they are horrible. I think they should spend more money fixing them.”

When asked if she’s ever voiced that opinion in meetings or other community organizations, Tracey said no.

“I choose not to get involved in a lot of that,” she said. “I don’t feel like I make a big difference – they’re going to do what they’re going to do and it doesn’t really matter.”

The Franklin Municipal Services Department would love to fix the sidewalks – it gets about 40 complaints a year regarding plowing and upkeep.

Department head Brian Sullivan said he requests funds for sidewalk repair every year, but there’s never enough money in the city budget available.

“I wish I had money to do every sidewalk in town, they need it,” Sullivan said, adding that there’s a whopping 32 miles of sidewalk in Franklin. “There are so many needs and you have to start to prioritize. It’s crazy – there’s no revenue.”

Many residents – and public officials – in Franklin have been hoping for the Northern Pass project to be approved and to receive the potential $7 million in tax revenue it could bring in the first year.

Despite the city’s financial struggles, Tracey said there are good things in Franklin from her perspective – namely, Sara Tracy’s work as the welfare director.

“That’s one of the things I wouldn’t want to change about this town – is her,” Tracey said. “She goes the extra mile for people. She helps everybody.”

Tracey said she also enjoys taking her grandchildren to Odell Park. She planned to go to the recent Community Day celebration put on there by the non-profit Choose Franklin. It’s the one community event Tracey said she likes to participate in.

“The playground . . . that’s an awesome place,” Tracey said. “They seem to keep that up.”

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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