VOL. 129 | NO. 225 | Tuesday, November 18, 2014
City Council to Consider Police Funding
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members will consider Tuesday, Nov. 18, taking $1 million from city reserves to fully fund an additional Memphis police recruit class in the current fiscal year.
The $1 million from reserves would go with $2 million the council approved at the start of the fiscal year for a new recruit class.
The resolution by council chairman Jim Strickland is up for discussion at an 8:30 a.m. council committee session, less than 24 hours after Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. was to hold a Monday fundraiser for his 2015 re-election campaign.
In the wording of the resolution, Strickland cites a 9 percent increase in violent crime in the city from a year ago, comparing the first 10 months of each year. The resolution criticizes Wharton for promoting midnight basketball programs as a response to the violence, as well as suggesting high school football games be moved from Friday nights to daylight hours.
“Whereas, we cannot allow this defeatist attitude to push Memphis to be known nationwide as the city who cannot keep citizens safe after dark,” the resolution reads. It also links the increase in violent crime to Wharton “secretly” cutting funding for the Blue CRUSH approach to crime fighting.
Blue CRUSH, which concentrates police officers in statistical crime hotspots, has been in use by Memphis Police since late 2006. Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong has strongly denied that he reduced the effort when asked about it in the past by council members.
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting and get updates on committee sessions earlier in the day at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.
The council is scheduled to vote on a Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division water rate increase that is a reaction to Cargill Inc.’s plans to close its Memphis corn mill operation and lay off 440 employees by the end of this year. Cargill is the utility’s largest single customer for water in terms of sales and sales revenue, accounting for 5 percent.
The utility board has approved and recommended to the council a 2.33 percent increase per customer, estimated to produce $1.8 million in additional revenue for the 2015 calendar year. The water rate increase, if approved, would become effective with January meter readings and would amount to about 35 cents more per month for residential customers.
The water rate increase is included in Memphis Light, Gas and Water’s proposed annual budget of $1.7 billion, which is also scheduled for a Tuesday vote by the full council.
In addition, three proposed ordinances dealing with the city’s pension plan are on the agenda for the second of three readings.
Two are Wharton’s proposal to change the city’s pension plan to a hybrid plan for all new hires as of Jan. 1, 2016, and for current city employees with less than 10 years of service. The third ordinance is an alternative by council member Myron Lowery to apply the hybrid plan to newly hired city employees only and keep unvested employees with less than 10 years of service in the current defined benefits plan.
Council members will discuss Lowery’s proposal in depth for the first time at the 1 p.m. council executive session.
In Tuesday committee sessions, council members review the next step in the administration’s plan to change garbage and trash collection to a “pay as you throw” concept.
The administration presents details at 8:30 a.m. of a $15.5 million master lease agreement between the city and Bank of America Capital Corp. The lease is for solid waste refuse trucks. The council approved the lease agreement for the vehicles in 2011.
The leased vehicles would update a garbage fleet that Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom has argued over several fiscal years is badly in need of replacing.
Between now and a schedule and other details for the lease becoming final, the city would lease 10 garbage packers by advancing $1.5 million from the city’s solid waste budget for the capital outlay. The council discusses that transfer at a 9:30 a.m. budget committee session.
The council also discusses in committee Tuesday the details of $1.5 million in financing through the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. for improvements to the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
The improvements, financed through bond debt, include $50,000 in new furniture and fixtures and $635,000 in construction. But the bulk of the funding, $815,000, is listed in the funding resolution as “other cost.”
And the council elects a chairman and vice chairman of the body Tuesday to take office in January for a one-year term in 2015, which is a city election year.