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VOL. 126 | NO. 237 | Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Council to Discuss City Employee Bonuses

By Bill Dries

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The day after the Shelby County Commission considered a one-time bonus for county government employees, the Memphis City Council will talk about a bonus for city employees.

The council takes up the item during an 8:30 a.m. committee session Tuesday, Dec. 6, at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. It could be added to the agenda for the full council meeting at 3:30 p.m.

The bonuses are the result of budget surpluses from the previous year from budget cuts made with layoffs, pay cuts and unfilled vacant positions in both local governments. In the case of city government, all employees took a 4.6 percent pay cut.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration puts the operating budget surplus at $5.5 million. Its proposal is to spend most the surplus -- all but $1.5 million -- on a one-time bonus of at least $600 per employee or 1.5 percent of a worker’s annual base salary, whichever is greater. The bonus applies to all permanent, full-time city employees hired on or before June 30, 2011, who are still on the city payroll on Dec. 22.

The council’s agenda includes the delayed third and final reading of an ordinance that would change the city’s pension system by setting an age minimum for when city employees can retire. It would allow workers who would now retire on full disability to be assigned to other duties at comparable pay when the city can find jobs that allow them to work around their disabilities. Death benefits to ex-spouses would also be limited. All of the changes apply to new hires and those with fewer than 10 years on the city payroll as full-time, permanent employees.

The council also votes on a 5 percent increase in water rates that start when Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division workers read utility meters in January.

Council members are also scheduled to vote Tuesday on an agreement between the city and the Overton Park Conservancy. Under the agreement, the city would continue to own the park but the nonprofit conservancy would run and maintain the Midtown landmark for the city with private donations and an annual operating subsidy of $150,000 from the city. Organizers of the conservancy say the annual amount is less than the city currently spends on maintaining the park.

Also on the agenda is a resolution to approve a planned development for the Overton Square area to include a parking garage, as well as retail, commercial and office uses on 3.36 acres on the northwest corner of Cooper Street and Monroe Avenue.

The council would still have to vote at a later meeting on city funding for construction of a multi-level garage to include a water-detention basin below ground to handle flooding problems in the general area. The cost estimate for the project recently increased.

In council committee sessions at 1 p.m., the council will discuss repealing the countywide ordinance that bans strip clubs from serving any alcohol or beer and requires club workers and owners to undergo background checks.

County leaders announced they would begin enforcing the ordinance approved in 2007 effective with the new year after numerous court appeals by club owners failed. The ordinance applies to Memphis where all of the existing strip clubs are located, unless the council enacts its own ordinance. In that case, the countywide ordinance would remain in effect only for areas outside the city limits.

There was an attempt by the administration of former city Mayor Willie Herenton to introduce an alternative set of strip-club rules that would have permitted the businesses to continue serving beer and mixed drinks. But the effort faded as the county ordinance was stalled in the federal court fight.

The 11:30 a.m. parks committee session will focus on a proposed five-year agreement for Golf Course Management Co. to run The Links at Davy Crockett, The Links at Pine Hill and The Links at Riverside for the city Park Services division.

The company would pay the city a $1,000 annual lease fee for each golf course.

And at the next to last council meeting of the year, the council will discuss in committee a proposal by council member Janis Fullilove to reconfigure its array of committees, reducing them by two from the existing 13 committees.

The resolution by Fullilove would eliminate the education and landmarks committees.

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