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VOL. 129 | NO. 224 | Monday, November 17, 2014

County Commission to Consider Fairgrounds Deal

By Bill Dries

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The idea of reconfiguring the Mid-South Fairgrounds as a public recreation area financed by the city of Memphis with sales tax revenue from retail development has come back to life under new terms.

And it goes to the Shelby County Commission Monday, Nov. 17, for county government's blessings of the city's application for a Tourism Development Zone on its way to the Tennessee Building Commission.

The commission meets at 3 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. Follow the meeting at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

Key to the commission’s debate and vote Monday is an agreement in which the city of Memphis agrees to pay county government an annual sum that is the amount of sales tax revenue that would go to Shelby County Schools.

The administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. first insisted the portion of the sales tax revenue recaptured in the Tourism Development Zone would not be endangered by the plan to use the sales tax revenue generated in the Midtown area to finance the reconfiguration of the Fairgrounds.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and his administration insisted it did endanger that source of schools funding and had legal opinions backing their belief.

After lots of public silence in recent months on the issue, the commission votes Monday on an interlocal agreement in which all of the sales tax revenue in the zone, which includes more than the Fairgrounds, will pay the cost of the project.

"The city agrees to make the payments required by this section from other available funds of the city," reads the agreement, referring to the contract's requirement that county government is not to lose the amount of the sales tax revenue that would fund Shelby County Schools.

The agreement draft as of last week did not have a dollar amount in the blank specifying the annual amount.

The blank is followed by contract language that says both local governments will cooperate with each other in calculating the amount of the annual payment and that the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration will assist in the calculation.

The commission also votes Monday on design contracts totaling $850,851 for three public works projects.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The largest is a $329,388 contract with Askew, Hargraves and Harcourt Inc. for environmental and design services on a widening of Macon Road between Berryhill and Houston Levee roads. Of the total, $247,041 of the funding is federal grant funds passed through the state. The remaining $82,347 is the county government match, which comes from capital funding.

The project includes a bridge over Gray's Creek and improvements to six intersections as Macon goes from two lanes to four lanes.

Another of the trio of contracts is for $282,000 with Chad Stewart and Associates to design the Benjestown Road pedestrian bridge across the Loosahatchie River. It is funded with $211,500 in federal grant money passed through the state and a local county capital funding match of $70,500.

The third contract is $239,463 with W.H. Porter Consultants PLLC for the design of the Houston Levee Road widening between Walnut Grove Road and the Wolf River Bridge.

Houston Levee will go from two lanes to four lanes.

Of the total, $179,597 is federal money passed through the state, and the local match is $59,865 in local capital funding.

Up for the second of three readings Monday are ordinances by commissioner Terry Roland that would repeal the county ordinances establishing a living wage and a prevailing wage on county contracts.

Roland cites legislation approved by the Tennessee General Assembly that overrules such ordinances.

But on first readings last month, the commission approved one of the repeals but not the other.

Some commissioners point out that the county removed the living wage and prevailing wage standards from all county bid documents and contracts once the Legislature acted, so the ordinances don't have any effect. Their argument is the ordinances should remain as an indication of sentiment on the commission.

Not on the agenda Monday is some resolution of the dispute among commissioners over chairman Justin Ford's refusal to put on the agenda an item by commissioner Walter Bailey that would change the body’s rules.

Bailey and six other commissioners sued Ford in a Chancery Court lawsuit. But Chancellor Jim Kyle, in his initial hearing on the matter earlier this month, said Ford violated no rules because the current commission that took office Sept. 1 never adopted its own rules.

That set off a discussion in committee sessions last week in which some commissioners contended Kyle was applying rules of the Tennessee Legislature to the commission. Kyle is a former state senator.

While the Legislature adopts rules of procedure at the start of its sessions, the County Commission has not adopted the practice, in effect leaving in place rules of procedure from one commission to the next.

PROPERTY SALES 79 321 2,586
MORTGAGES 90 426 3,033
BUILDING PERMITS 153 796 6,864
BANKRUPTCIES 37 213 2,000