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VOL. 129 | NO. 33 | Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Council to Review Mall Conversions

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members get a look at plans for the redevelopment of two shopping malls Tuesday, Feb. 18.

But the council’s last meeting for February apparently won’t include any presentation of a proposal to change the benefits of new city hires and city employees with less than 10 years on the job, as promised earlier by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, twitter.com/tdnpols.

Memphis City Council members get their first look Tuesday at redevelopment plans centered on two Memphis malls that would house city government offices.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Wharton will present in an 11 a.m. committee session his administration’s plan for improvements to the Southbrook Mall and the surrounding Whitehaven area. Council member Janis Fullilove originally proposed $1.5 million in funding for roof and heating and air conditioning repairs at the 1970s-era mall.

But the proposal fell through when city attorneys said it was a private use of public money that could endanger millions more in federal funding that is going for streetscape improvements along Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Wharton then said his administration would recast the effort as a broader plan for Whitehaven redevelopment.

At the same committee session, council members are scheduled to review plans for a makeover of the Raleigh Springs Mall that would involve moving the city’s traffic precinct, a library and other government functions to the mall footprint.

No council action is scheduled Tuesday on either item.

Meanwhile, Wharton had said his timeline for a plan to deal with the city’s unfunded pension liability would include a resolution to the council in February that would switch unvested city employees with less than 10 years on the job and all new city hires to a defined contributions plan similar to a 401(k). The city currently has a defined benefits plan that the city’s actuaries and financial advisers say is a key factor in the unsustainability of the city’s pension fund.

Council members will hear more at the 2 p.m. executive session about hiring its own actuary to review the pension fund liability numbers by the administration that show a $700 million unfunded liability. The council, through its attorney, Allan Wade, is considering hiring Segal Consulting of Atlanta for what could be a three-stage review that could take six months at an estimated cost of $45,000 to $65,000. The last two phases are plan design consulting and implementation. An initial review would be $20,000 to $25,000 and could take one to six weeks.

The council would rearrange funding in the current fiscal year budget from “unused existing appropriations” to pay for the consulting firm or take the money from the city’s pension plan, according to a draft resolution.

The council also reviews a further rollback in the city’s tuition reimbursement program for city employees at an 8:30 a.m. committee session. The draft resolution appears to limit tuition reimbursement for master’s degrees to those associated with library sciences effective July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The change would allow those approved for tuition reimbursement pursing master’s or doctorate degrees other than library sciences prior to July 1 to continue to get reimbursement.

The reimbursement for associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees would remain up to $2,500 for tuition and books per fiscal year and $1,500 per fiscal year for technical certificates, diplomas or credentials. Each division of city government has an allocation of the reimbursement funding.

The council also gets an update at the executive session on the move of Bass Pro Shops into The Pyramid. The outdoors retailer, which is building a store and other attractions in the former 20,000-seat arena, is scheduled to open this year.

Up for the second of three readings is council member Myron Lowery’s ordinance to require individual water meters in all new apartment complexes. Lowery drafted the proposal to remedy water cutoffs by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division in complexes where renters pay their part of the utility bill but the owner of the complex is behind.

The council also votes on taking 3.58 acres of Quince Road frontage out of the Quince Road residential corridor established in 1974.

The land is in the front of Balmoral Shopping Center on the northwest corner of Quince and Ridgeway roads. The center was built before the residential corridor was established.

The owner, Balmoral Shopping Center LLC, has plans to build an outparcel pharmacy building on the frontage, which is already part of the shopping center property.

The city residential corridor ordinance bars development of such outparcels in front of a neighborhood retail center. But because the shopping center came before the corridor designation, the city-county Office of Planning and Development is recommending the council approve the change.

MORTGAGES 54 374 1,120
BUILDING PERMITS 177 767 2,425