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VOL. 128 | NO. 245 | Tuesday, December 17, 2013

City Council to Revisit Water, Waste Fee Hikes

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members will at least talk at their last meeting of the year about undoing two votes they’ve taken recently.

The Tueday, Dec. 17, council agenda includes revisiting its Nov. 19 approval of a 2.13 percent increase in Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division water rates.

The Memphis City Council's last meeting of 2013 is Tuesday, with a crowded agenda that will probably include a second attempt to pass a solid waste fee hike.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

There will also probably be a move to reconsider the council’s Dec. 3 rejection of a proposed increase in the solid waste fee.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Follow the meeting at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

Council members tipped their hand on the effort to reconsider the solid waste fee hike at the end of last week’s special session, when some on the council moved to approve same-night minutes for every item approved at the Dec. 3 council session. The Monday, Dec. 9, special session was technically a continuation of the Dec. 3 meeting because the city charter states the council can only meet twice a month.

Approving the minutes would have made the council’s rejection of the solid fee waste hike final.

Other council members moved quickly to approve only certain items, and the vote rejecting the solid waste fee hike was not one of them.

The council rejected bringing the monthly fee of $22.80 back to the $25.05 it was before the July 1 start of the current fiscal year after Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration said the solid waste fee hike was not directly linked to a retirement supplement of up to $1,000 a month for sanitation workers.

The council approved the retirement supplement.

City Chief Administrative Officer George Little said with no solid waste fee hike, it would be more difficult, but not impossible, to gather the savings to fund the retirement supplement. Since then, the administration has been trying to walk back the statement while still arguing that one does not directly affect the other.

In between the fee hike and retirement supplement are route changes, with an increase in stops by sanitation crews on those routes as well as single-source recycling.

Revenue from the solid waste fee increase would be used to buy new vehicles for the sanitation fleet and new recycling carts to replace the much smaller bins now used.

Council members will discuss the second look at the water rate hike at a 10:30 a.m. committee session. It is on the agenda for action at the 3:30 p.m. meeting. It requires the council to adjourn during the meeting and reconvene as a rate-making body.

Still on Tuesday’s agenda was a vote on the AutoZone Park deal, which Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has requested the council delay until its Jan. 3 meeting.

Council members have twice delayed a vote on the proposal in which the city would buy the baseball park as the St. Louis Cardinals would buy the Memphis Redbirds franchise.

At the Dec. 9 special session, council members not only delayed a vote but made what amounts to a counteroffer that lowers the price the city would pay for the park and halves the amount the city would put up for ballpark improvements.

Council members return to another controversial project at an 11:30 a.m. committee session to discuss the idea of $1.5 million in city funding for renovations at Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven.

The council approved the funding but tied it to a legal opinion on whether the improvements were a private use of federal funding for streetscape improvements along Elvis Presley Boulevard. City attorneys said it is a private use, and both the council and the administration began looking for alternative sources of funding.

Tuesday’s council session marks the end of the one-year chairmanship of council member Edmund Ford Jr. Council member Jim Strickland becomes chairman in 2014.

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