Commission Approves Pidgeon Land Sale, Weighs Schools Moves

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, Dec. 3, the purchase of 33.6 acres of land in the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park by Carolyn Hardy for the Hardy Investment Trust.

Hardy intends to open a business to store and stage modular containers on the land.

She is paying $12,000 an acre for the land or a total of $403,980.

The Memphis-Shelby County Port Commission and the Memphis City Council approved the sale of the land earlier.

The commission approved the purchase with no discussion on an 11-0 vote.

In other action, the commission approved $2 million in additional funding to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for school resource officers in what are now Memphis City Schools. The funding allows the sheriff’s department to put commissioned law enforcement officers in the city schools next school year when the county’s two public school systems merge. The Memphis Police Department now provides those officers to city schools but is to stop doing that with the merger in August.

And the commission approved an additional $473,549 from its contingency fund to pay its legal fees in the municipal schools district lawsuit. The commission filed the third party motion contesting the constitutionality of the state laws permitting the school districts.

Federal Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays ruled last week in favor of the commission on one of the three state laws referred to as the “school acts.” The ruling voided all moves that the county’s suburban towns and cities have taken to date in forming such school districts. Mays also ordered them to stop any further moves toward the school districts.

Commissioner Terry Roland requested an unredacted accounting of legal expenses from the Baker Donelson law firm which has represented the commission in the case.

Ritz instructed the attorneys not to provide such an accounting because the case is ongoing.

Mays is still considering the fate of the two other state laws in the “school acts.”

Ritz said an unredacted accounting would violate attorney-client confidentiality and give those on the other sides of the case a “roadmap to where we are going.”

Although the commission as a whole filed the third party motion leading to Mays’ ruling, a vocal minority on the commission object to the legal move.

As the commission meeting adjourned, Ritz called commissioners into a private meeting with attorneys, although it wasn’t clear if the executive session dealt with the schools litigation or some other matter.

The commission also approved an agreement for the Shelby County Trustee’s office to collect taxes for the city of Lakeland which recently implemented its first property tax.

A “wage theft” ordinance was approved on the second of three readings. Commissioner Steve Mulroy said he intends to amend the ordinance before third and final reading which would push a final vote into the first commission meeting in January.

And the commission appointed Quran Folsom as the commission’s chief administrator. Folsom is a senior executive assistant at Memphis City Schools who begins her job with the commission in January.

Folsom replaces Clay Perry, who was appointed by the commission earlier this year after being among the applicants for the vacancy created by the retirement of Steve Summerall. Perry withdrew his acceptance of the appointment. Folsom had also been among the applicants for the vacancy initially.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet again Dec. 17 for two sessions in Ritz’s office at the County Administration Building. The public sessions will be to discuss tax increment financing rules and pre-kindergarten access, according to Ritz.