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VOL. 128 | NO. 161 | Monday, August 19, 2013

Commission Weighs Fire and Ambulance District Legislation

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners may go to Nashville with the new year, seeking state legislation to create a utility board and district for fire and ambulance service in unincorporated Shelby County, Lakeland, Arlington and Millington.

The commission votes Monday, Aug. 19, on a resolution that would recommend such action by the Tennessee General Assembly.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

Follow the action with live tweets at twitter.com/tdnpols during the meeting.


The proposal is the work of an ad hoc committee appointed by County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz and headed by County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker.

The legislation the county would seek would make such a district an option counties could consider forming. It would not require the formation of such a district and requires the approval of county government and at least one municipality within that county to begin organizing the district.

“I’m excited about it,” Bunker said in Wednesday, Aug. 14, committee sessions, adding the goal is to stabilize fire and ambulance service, especially in the northern part of Shelby County. “It breaks down that section of the county where you don’t have to worry about boundaries. There’s no need for cooperative agreements. It would provide some good efficiencies out there, I think.”

The board would have seven members, which is the maximum under existing state law. Shelby County government would have two appointees to the board, and each participating municipality regardless of population would have one board member. That means only five of the seven cities in Shelby County could participate.

Bunker said the ad hoc committee included leaders from Arlington, Lakeland and Millington under the assumption Memphis wouldn’t be interested in disbanding its fire department.

“We didn’t feel it’d be realistic that Bartlett, Collierville or Germantown would be part of it,” Bunker added.

He said one mayor of one of the other suburban towns was for it but didn’t say which.

“The other suburb may possibly be very open to it in the near future,” Bunker said, referring to Lakeland, where he is running for mayor in the town’s September elections. “We’ll see how that comes out.”

County chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s administration favors the general idea.

The commission also votes Monday on a new and amended 50-year lease and agreement between the county and Shelby County Health Care Corp., the entity that governs The Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

Ritz added an amendment last week requiring the corporation to present its budget to the commission “timely and annually for our review and comment.”

“I don’t take a commissioner sitting on your board as communicating with the commission,” he added.

Up for the first of three readings Monday is an ordinance that would create regulations and fees for vendors who generate used tires, and vendors who transport used tires for legal disposal. The ordinance replaces a joint city-county ordinance that was never activated by the city of Memphis with a proposal that would apply only to the unincorporated county.

Because a fee is involved, the ordinance requires a nine-vote, two-thirds majority to pass.

Some commissioners said there is no one in the unincorporated county to whom such an ordinance would apply.


“I think regulating tire disposal is very important,” countered Commissioner James Harvey, who proposed the ordinance. “There are tires everywhere. Laws don’t always create an immediate impact. However, laws over time establish a behavior pattern that people can basically abide by.”

Kennedy said the administration has problems with putting the permit and fee work on the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement and added the proposal took the administration by surprise.

“We’re just not sure what we’re fixing,” he said.

The Monday commission session is Ritz’s last as chairman.

With the Sept. 9 commission meeting, Harvey becomes chairman for the next year.

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