Council to Review $12 Million Stadium ADA Plan

By Bill Dries

Memphis City Council members get their first look Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the plan to pay for improvements at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to settle the city’s negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department over making the stadium comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Memphis City Council will review a $12 million plan that will bring the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium into compliance with Americans with Disability Act standards.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

At an 11 a.m. committee session, council members will review a plan by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to advance $12 million from other items in the city’s current Capital Improvements Program budget to pay architectural, engineering and constructions costs to make the Liberty Bowl improvements in a year’s time.

The Wharton administration has agreed to the timeline.

It plans to restore the $12 million to those other city construction projects with sales tax revenues from an expanded tourism development zone that would include the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

The TDZ application requires state approval. Wharton and city Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb talked earlier this year of expanding the zone proposal to take in Overton Square with sales tax revenue captured there being used to finance the redevelopment of the Fairgrounds as a public recreation area.

Meanwhile, the same Tuesday committee session will include a discussion of moving $107,198 in the current fiscal year’s operating budget away from the Mid-South Coliseum, which also has more severe ADA issues that prompted the closing of the facility to the public in 2005.

That was when then-Mayor Willie Herenton began talks with Justice Department attorneys about how to bring the Liberty Bowl into compliance on the handicapped access issues.

Herenton, several times, proposed demolishing the stadium – built in 1965 – and building a new stadium at approximately the same location. Each time Herenton withdrew the proposal citing public reaction against construction of a new football stadium.

Of the $107,198 in funding to move away from the Coliseum, $78,198 would be moved to the Liberty Bowl and another $29,000 would be moved to the Memphis Animal Services division.

The full council, which meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St., is not scheduled to vote Tuesday on either matter.

The council is scheduled to vote on third and final reading of an ordinance setting up a system for local investigation and General Sessions Court jurisdiction over “wage theft” complaints. It is a companion to an ordinance the Shelby County Commission is also considering.

And the council has on its agenda a vote on a resolution that would allow Wharton to enter into an interlocal agreement with Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir to collect property taxes for the city. The city treasurer’s office currently performs that function. With Lenoir taking on those duties, the treasurer’s office would remain a part of city government for the collection of other fees and revenues.

Lenoir had made several proposals offering to collect the city property tax revenue earlier, which were largely ignored by Wharton. The late Bob Patterson also made a similar proposal during his tenure as trustee.

The council will also vote Tuesday on a planned development on the northwest corner of Union Avenue and Lauderdale Street that is an expansion of the existing Enterprise Rent-A-Car business.

Up for the first of three readings is an ordinance that would create a caterer’s permit for the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages at catered events.

And at the last council meeting of 2012, the group will award its 19th annual Humanitarian Award to Memphis attorney Lewis Donelson, who was a member of the first city council that took office with the debut of the mayor-council form of government in 1968.

Donelson was among those who drafted the mayor-council charter. He served one four-year term on the council.