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VOL. 129 | NO. 136 | Tuesday, July 15, 2014

City Council Turns Again to Benefits Discussions

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members won’t take any major votes Tuesday, July 15, on city employee benefits.

But the controversial topic will likely dominate much of another council day at City Hall. The council is in the gap between its approval of health insurance changes in June and an October vote on the companion proposal to change city employee pension plans for new hires and those with less than 10 years of service.

The council day begins with an 8 a.m. committee session in which the council will field alternative proposals on the matters from citizens who had until Friday afternoon to make appointments.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. announced the committee hearing during the Fourth of July holiday weekend as it became apparent several hundred Memphis police officers were staging a sick-out that, at its height, involved a quarter of the police force.

The number of cops with blue flu has since leveled off and had dropped to 321 by Sunday, July 13.

As Wharton and leaders of the police and fire unions talked privately during the week about a return to work, they also talked about alternatives Wharton says should center on adjustments to the health insurance changes and proposed pension plan changes instead of trying to delay their implementation.

A sales tax hike of some kind was reportedly being explored at week’s end. Wharton wasn’t confirming exactly what along those lines was being discussed.

Meanwhile, the council has on its agenda a vote on the proposal by council member Edmund Ford Jr. to create a $2 million city “safety net” fund for retirees who are otherwise not able to get health insurance coverage in the change.

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

Follow the meeting and developments in committee sessions on Twitter at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

City Council chairman Jim Strickland and council member Edmund Ford Jr. are part of a larger discussion and debate about city employee benefits that has moved beyond City Hall.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

In other action, the council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on third and final reading of council chairman Jim Strickland’s ordinance that would create a trial residential parking permit zone in the Overton Square area.

Strickland delayed the final vote two weeks ago.

Up for the first of three readings is an ordinance by council member Wanda Halbert that would create community advisory councils as part of her proposal to establish a $14 million capital spending fund that would be divided equally among the council’s seven single-member districts.

The councils, to be established in each district, would be involved in setting the priorities for the funding.

Halbert first proposed the capital fund during the budget season, but the line item did not make it into the budget the council approved in June for the fiscal year that began this month.

The councils represent a continuation of the discussion about the concept within a larger capital budget of $65 million to $85 million annually.

In zoning and development matters, the council will vote on a parking lot for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare on the west side of Ayers Street north of Poplar Avenue, across Poplar from the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Also on the council’s agenda is a planned development by New Development LLC on the northeast corner of Knight Arnold and Ridgeway roads that would include a gas station and other uses.

At a 10 a.m. committee session, council members get their first look at a 10-year lease agreement between the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission and Miller Transporters Inc. for space in the port commission’s industrial subdivision in southwest Memphis.

Jackson, Miss.-based Miller operates a Memphis terminal and moves bulk commodities across North America in tanker trucks. The company operates more than 500 tractors and 1,100 trailers and has a sister company, Miller Intermodal Logistics Services Inc., which works in third-party logistics and leasing, also with a specialty in tank truck shipments.

Council members are also set to discuss $1 million in state grant funds to replace the Macon Road Bridge at Fletcher Creek.

Neither item is on the council’s agenda for its afternoon voting meeting, and under council rules of procedure would normally be voted on at the next council meeting Aug. 5.

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