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VOL. 128 | NO. 99 | Tuesday, May 21, 2013

City Council Mulls Ending Auto Inspections

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council member Lee Harris will propose Tuesday, May 21, exempting Memphis auto owners for two years from required auto emissions inspections.

The proposed ordinance will be discussed at the council’s 2:30 p.m. executive session and from there could be added to the agenda for the full council session.

The end of June marks the end of city funding for the auto emissions inspections that are now required of all vehicle owners who live in Memphis. At Tuesday's Memphis City Council session, council member Lee Harris will propose the city end the inspection requirement for all city residents for the two years it would take the state to take over the inspection process.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

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

The ordinance comes at a critical moment in the move by some on the council to end the practice of requiring the inspections of vehicles owned by city residents and not those who live in the county outside Memphis.

The council voted last year to end all city funding for the inspections as of June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Shelby County government could take over the inspection duties or, if that doesn’t happen, the state of Tennessee would take over the duties as it has in other Tennessee cities.

But officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation have told city and county leaders that the earliest the state would do that would be in two years when new federal air quality standards take effect.

At that point, the emissions testing could be made to apply to car owners countywide.

Harris’ ordinance could turn what has so far been a set of private talks among the three governments with little movement into a court fight if the state tries to enforce the inspections on city residents only.

City Council attorney Allan Wade told council members two weeks ago that if the state made that argument, the city could make a legal claim that such a requirement violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Council budget committee hearings on the Wharton administration’s budget proposal resume Tuesday at 8 a.m. with a review of capital improvements projects, including a Cooper-Young garage Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration is backing and a revitalization of the Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven.

The committee will also look at capital plans for the Memphis Area Transit Authority a week after reviewing MATA’s operating budget, which will see cuts in service including the elimination of five routes.

The elimination of the routes is part of a 20 percent cut in service by the transit authority in the new fiscal year.

“The fact of the matter is over the last three years not only in Memphis but nationally, ridership has increased by 3 percent,” said MATA president Will Hudson. “If we cut this, it’s going to be an absolutely devastating thing.”

Council member Harold Collins questioned why the cuts included routes in the city outside the Interstate 240 loop like Hickory Hill.

“We have been told consistently that a majority of the population now lives outside the loop,” Collins said. “How could your ridership be so large inside the loop?”

“The inner-city residents they need to get out there (to jobs), otherwise the transportation costs are so high,” Hudson replied.

But Collins says inner-city populations are changing in part with the end of large public housing developments in recent years that once defined inner-city Memphis within the loop.

“The case in point is when we got Legends Park,” Collins said, talking about the mixed-use, mixed-income development that replaced the old Dixie Homes public housing development at Poplar Avenue and Ayers Street. “Most of the people in Legends Park were displaced outside the loop. But the services didn’t follow them. If we are going to cut the bus service to Hickory Hill and Fox Meadows where most of those people went, then we are going to create a problem getting them to and from work.”

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is a planned development for a Ferrell Properties truck freight terminal at the south end of Hudgins Road near Airways Boulevard.

The council will also vote on a collision repair center at 2288 Germantown Parkway, south of Varnavas Drive in Cordova and a K-8 home schooling Natural Learning Center at 2368 Circle Ave.

Up for the first of three readings is an ordinance that would put off the effective date for new seismic provisions in the city and county residential and existing buildings code until the end of 2013. The provisions had been scheduled to take effect July 1 prompting concerns from local homebuilders about the impact of the new standards.

On the agenda for the second of three readings is the ordinance by council member Kemp Conrad that would ban pension double dipping – city employees retiring and then taking a new job with the city and getting paid for that job as well as getting a pension. The ban would also apply to retired city employees who take jobs post-retirement in Shelby County government or with other local government bodies including Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.

PROPERTY SALES 83 405 4,276
MORTGAGES 104 424 4,814
BUILDING PERMITS 148 883 10,151
BANKRUPTCIES 53 264 3,149