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VOL. 129 | NO. 44 | Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Council Weighs Conflicting Liability Numbers, Approves Mall Plan

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members cleared much of their committee calendar Tuesday, Feb. 4, to talk for four hours about specifics of the city’s pension fund liability crisis.

The discussion with Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson, Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard and consultants from four actuarial firms was aimed at trying to define the specifics of the problem, see if there is agreement on some of the numbers and better explain the differences.

Council chairman Jim Strickland said the council’s next step is for its actuary consultant, Segal Consulting of Atlanta, to come up with some options and recommendations for the council to discuss and possibly act on.

Meanwhile, the council approved an urban renewal plan Tuesday for the Raleigh Springs Mall that starts the process of locating city government offices and facilities at the mall at Austin Peay Highway and Yale Road with the Memphis Police Department traffic precinct. The resolution, sponsored by council member Bill Morrison and approved without debate, also sets the stage for a public hearing on the larger plan.

The administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has also talked of building a new Raleigh branch public library at the mall site as well as moving the Old Allen Station police precinct, the oldest police precinct building still in use in Memphis, to the mall.

A plan to set a new fee structure for streetlights went back to square one as the council couldn’t find a second to approve a resolution setting the new rates proposed by the Memphis Light Gas and Water Division board.

Several council members said they will likely try to bring the issue back to life in committee meetings later this month.

The council outright rejected the resolution by council member Bill Boyd to exempt approximately 1,700 newly annexed residents of South Cordova from paying the fee. That part of Cordova does not have street lights.

Boyd cast the only yes vote in favor of the resolution.

The council approved a long-delayed resolution to spend $300,000 from the city solid waste fund to build six community trash compactor pads in the Downtown area as part of a plan to eliminate dumpsters in public alleys.

Sustainable Solutions Group – or SSG – of Atlanta will run the compactors to go on the pads for the city including collecting fees from those who use them. SSG would get a percentage of the fees it collects under terms that are still being negotiated said city Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom.

The council also approved Tuesday a $48 million shifting of city funds in a “mid-year clean-up” budget resolution.

The shift of funding includes $1 million from the “Midtown corridor” fund to pay for continued testing of the Memphis Police Department’s rape kit backlog. The fund is federal dollars turned over to the city that were originally to be used for the construction of Interstate 40 through Overton Park. The money would come from a total of $1.3 million in the fund that the city considered using at one point to settle money owed for improvements to Handy Park that were a part of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings over control of the Beale Street entertainment district. The administration used other city funding to resolve the matter.

Another $110,000 in the clean-up resolution goes to repay the federal government for money the city’s division of Housing and Community Development spent as part of the HARP – Home Affordable Refinance Program – that federal officials disallowed and refused to reimburse.

Construction period rent from The Pyramid totaling $2.5 million was also transferred to Housing and Community Development under the general heading of “Pyramid redevelopment.”

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