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VOL. 127 | NO. 1 | Monday, January 2, 2012

Council Begins Bed Tax Discussion

By Bill Dries

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The first meeting of the Memphis City Council for 2012 offers some familiar issues and some new moves that point toward a break with the past in city operations.

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

The meeting comes two days after the council and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. begin new four-year terms of office.

On Tuesday’s agenda for the first of three readings is an ordinance delayed late last year to raise the hotel-motel “bed” tax by 2.7 percent. The proposal by council member Edmund Ford Jr. has meet vocal resistance from the city’s tourism industry including the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. Ford’s proposal would use revenue from the bed tax increase to fund city-owned attractions.

Meanwhile, council members will talk during their 2:15 p.m. executive session with contractors seeking to help build the new Electrolux North America Cooking Products plant.

Outgoing council chairman Myron Lowery co-signed a letter last week to Electrolux executives expressing “concern” about how much of the construction work would go to minority and locally owned businesses.

Incoming council chairman Bill Morrison said he and other council members share the concern.

“We just want to make sure that everyone is at the table and everyone is given a fair opportunity to participate in the bidding and participate in … $90 million worth of work,” he said. “We need to see some return on our investment.”

Shelby County Commission chairman Sidney Chism and Tennessee state Sen. Beverly Marrero, chairwoman of the Shelby County delegation to the Tennessee Legislature, also co-signed the letter.

Chism, in particular, has said that he has heard from some potential construction sub contractors who complained that they haven’t heard anything from Electrolux about bidding specifications.

A month after the council approved a contract for the Overton Park Conservancy to operate and maintain Overton Park for the city, the council will vote Tuesday on two other transfers of Park Services division functions.

One resolution allows the city to enter into a 20-year contract with Tri-State Youth Baseball Academy Inc. to manage and operate the baseball field at Jesse Turner/Bellevue Park in South Memphis. The contract has an initial term of five years with three renewal options following that of five years each.

The other resolution makes formal an agreement in which Memphis City Schools operate Halle Football Stadium. MCS has run the stadium for city Park Services since the 1970s.

The formal agreement covers a 25-year span with a five-year initial term and two renewal options of 10 years each.

The school system would cover all operations costs for the stadium under the contract terms.

The council also recently gave approval for a contract with Golf Course Management Co. of Nashville to operate and maintain three municipal golf courses for the city – The Links at Davy Crockett, The Links at Pine Hill and The Links at Riverside.

Up for third and final reading Tuesday are two ordinances from 2011 that would set a standard of care for pets and require the sterilization of dogs deemed dangerous or vicious.

Twelve of the 13 council members were re-elected in October in the largest return of incumbents to the council in the 43-year history of the city’s mayor-council form of government.

Wharton won a full four-year term of office after claiming the mayor’s office in a 2009 special election following the resignation of Willie Herenton.

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