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VOL. 128 | NO. 211 | Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Commission Delays EDGE Appointment Resolution

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners put off a vote Monday, Oct. 28, on a “resolution of intent” in which the commission would withhold approval of city government nominees to the board of the Economic Development Growth Engine – or EDGE – until the city pays its full share of the cost of the economic development organization.

The resolution by commissioner Mike Ritz was one of several long debated resolutions on a relatively short agenda.

Ritz proposed the resolution to “send a message” to City Hall and specifically Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.

Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell pledged to put up $15 million both governments split evenly from the sale of the old Defense Depot land toward the creation of EDGE.

Luttrell did that in behalf of county government. But Wharton diverted the city’s $7.5 million to other uses with Luttrell and Wharton later working out what amounts to installment payments by the city.

The last of those payments is due June 30, 2015, the end of the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014. The EDGE board ratified the payment plan.

But Ritz and several other commissioners contend Luttrell didn’t have the authority to renegotiate terms without approval from the commission.

Luttrell has said Ritz should take his disagreement to the EDGE board. Ritz is a non-voting member of the EDGE board.

Luttrell also argued Monday that holding up Wharton’s nominations for the board would inject politics into an economic development organization the two mayors worked hard to keep politics out of.

If the commission did not approve Wharton’s nominees, his existing nominees would continue to serve past their terms on the board. The EDGE board would continue to operate.

The resolution returns to the commission’s agenda at its Nov. 18 meeting.

Ritz’s resolution encouraging the Shelby County Health, Education and Housing Facilities Board to limit its financing to projects either within Shelby County or projects by developers from Shelby County was voted down on 4-5 vote.

Ritz fared better on a third resolution that would cap property tax increment financing approved by the Community Redevelopment Agency to a term of 15 years. It was approved on 9-0 vote.

Also delayed Monday and scheduled for a return appearance on the Nov. 18 agenda is a resolution for the county to accept a $797,809 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services for the children and families of prison inmates who are about to reenter society.

Commissioner Steve Basar moved to delay a vote on the resolution saying he wanted more information about the agencies that will handle the program.

The commission at first defeated and then approved a plan that would convert some temporary county government positions to full time jobs and eliminate more of the temporary positions across county government as well as the offices of countywide elected officials.

The revenue neutral plan is a reaction to the federal Affordable Care Act that defines a 30-hour work week as a full-time employee with health care coverage effective with the new year.

The list of 19 temporary positions that would become full-time positions in the plan included the names of those currently holding the positions. That included a social media position at Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court now held by the son of court Chief Administrative Officer Larry Scroggs.

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Kim Hackney said the jobs would be posted and filled after interviews of applicants and a process the administration would supervise.

Commissioners voted on the Juvenile Court positions separately and then all of the other positions in the plan and in two separate votes defeated both of the items.

The commission then reconsidered that vote and voted on the plan as a single item and approved it.

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