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VOL. 128 | NO. 171 | Monday, September 2, 2013

Trash Talk Headlines Council Meeting

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members talk trash – specifically, the proposed changes to decades of established policies for garbage collection in the city – during their Tuesday, Sept. 3, executive session.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The 1:30 p.m. session is to discuss details of a plan by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to add 100 stops to each garbage truck route, privatize service to come in the soon-to-be-annexed Southwind area and increase the solid waste fee to the pre-July monthly rate of $25.05, allowing the city to buy new vehicles for a sanitation fleet whose trucks are 17 years old.

The plan, which the union representing the workers has agreed to, also would establish a monthly retirement supplement of up to $1,000 for sanitation workers, funded exclusively by savings from the expected efficiencies in the new collection methods.

Approximately 40 workers in the department are working beyond retirement age, many because they chose to go with Social Security benefits at a time in the 1960s when they had to choose between that and a city pension.

The council delayed a vote two weeks ago on the plan, whose key provision is restoring the solid waste fee to $25.05. It automatically dropped in July to $22.80 a month because the council did not set the fee at the end of the previous fiscal year.

Council member Kemp Conrad still wants to explore attempting a lump-sum buyout for the workers past retirement age, a plan he proposed two years ago.

“I think personally we are about 85 to 90 percent of the way there” on an agreement, Conrad said after the first full council discussion of the matter two weeks ago. “These are kind of the final details that I think need to be discussed and worked out just to make sure we are considering all options.”

City chief administrative officer George Little is emphasizing the need to restore the solid waste fee to continue funding the service or risk losing close to $5 million annually, which could mean having to borrow or advance money from other parts of the city’s budget.

Conrad agrees with the necessity of that part of the plan.

“Over the last 10 years, before this became an enterprise fund, the general fund lent the solid waste operation effectively … $102 million. That’s why we need to make a decision on this. That is the price of delay.”

The plan could be added to the agenda of the council’s main meeting Tuesday, which begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow www.twitter.com/tdnpols for live tweets during the meeting.

Already on the council’s agenda is a vote on the new lease agreement the city has negotiated for the use of Handy Park in the Beale Street entertainment district. Under the agreement, Handy Park LLC – a group of Beale tenants led by Blues City Cafe partner Bud Chittom – would lease the park from the city of Memphis for five years for use as a concert and entertainment venue. They would also pay off approximately $500,000 that Beale Street developer John Elkington took out in a personal loan for improvements to the park.

The terms of the deal are the latest steps in years of negotiations and a bankruptcy court settlement for Elkington’s Performa Entertainment company. That paves the way for his exit from development and management of the district – something he has handled since the early 1980s – and for the city to assume day-to-day control of the district going forward.

The council is also scheduled to vote on a resolution that authorizes the Memphis chapter of UNICO – the Italian-American fraternal organization – to move the statue of Christopher Columbus from a Downtown park to Marquette Park in East Memphis.

UNICO commissioned the Columbus statue, which was placed in 1987 in the new Columbus Park on the southwest corner of Adams Avenue and Second Street. The organization has pledged to pay all costs of moving the statue to Marquette Park, the site of the annual Memphis Italian Festival.

The resolution also states the city’s intent to convert Columbus Park into a park honoring the Memphis attorneys whose work was integral to the local civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The city is working with the Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association on what form the honor would take.

Planning and zoning items on Tuesday’s council agenda include a gas station on the northeast corner of Knight Arnold and Ridgeway roads, a funeral home and parking at 460 E. McLemore Ave. at Wellington Street and a special use permit for the conversion of the James Lee House, 690 Adams Ave., to a bed-and-breakfast.

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