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VOL. 129 | NO. 170 | Monday, September 1, 2014

Council to Review Alternative Health Plan

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members Tuesday, Sept. 2, talk over a proposed high-deductible health insurance plan that would restore health benefits for city employees and retirees.

The 1:30 p.m. executive session discussion by the full council is the first since the leaders of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association pitched the plan at a health insurance oversight committee session in July.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration has since disputed the union’s claim that the plan will save the city $24 million.

The union, in turn, has said the administration is unrealistic in expecting any health insurance plan to contribute savings that go toward the city’s unfunded pension liability.

Memphis City Council members discuss in Tuesday, Sept. 2, committee sessions an alternative to health insurance cuts the body approved in June. The alternative plan for higher deductibles would restore cuts in coverage.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Meanwhile, union leaders have said they are pursuing a sales tax hike that could go on the Nov. 4 ballot in Memphis to restore the health cuts and that they will file a lawsuit over the changes.

The council abandoned a referendum ordinance on the sales tax hike last month after council attorney Allan Wade said there wasn’t time to approve it on three readings before a Labor Day deadline to get it to the Shelby County Election Commission. But the unions could petition the city council outside the ordinance process for such a referendum.

The council approved health insurance coverage cuts in June and are scheduled to vote in October on city pension plan changes proposed by Wharton.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting and developments in committee sessions earlier in the day at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

On the agenda is a resolution to create a $2 million “safety net” fund for one year to cover any city employees or retirees who fall between the cracks in the shift from coverage by the city to coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

A vote on the resolution has been delayed twice as Wharton and his administration have reshaped it into what they call a “trust fund” with donations – money and services – from outside city government to a nonprofit entity that would administer the fund.

Council members also vote Tuesday on $270,000 in capital funding to buy two Pro-Patch trucks used to make street repairs.

Also on the council’s agenda is a special use permit at 951 Brooks Road, east of Dogwood Lane, by Sylvia Owens for a car lot.

The car lot would use specific spaces in a strip shopping center parking lot shared with customers coming to other businesses in the center. The car lot is also next to a residential area. The Land Use Control Board and Office of Planning and Development are recommending significant upgrades to the center, including landscaping.

At a 1 p.m. committee session, council members discuss a proposed ordinance that would ban noisy construction and demolition projects in any residential district in the city during holidays. The ban would be an addition to the countywide Unified Development Code that already limits such work to weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The ordinance includes permits for exceptions for a maximum of 30 days from the chief building inspector’s office.

At an 11:30 a.m. committee session, the council talks over a proposed ordinance that would add a $5 fee to any traffic citation from the Memphis Police Department that is written electronically. No draft of the ordinance was included in the documents with the council’s agenda late last week.

Neither were details of a proposal by the Wharton administration to spend $1.8 million in capital funds for “various repair projects in City Hall.” A council committee is scheduled to review those projects at a 9:15 a.m. meeting.

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