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VOL. 130 | NO. 106 | Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Council Pursues Budget Loose Ends, Votes on Brewery Funding

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members will vote Tuesday on $2.5 million in city funding for the Tennessee Brewery redevelopment.

Memphis City Council members wrap up more loose ends Tuesday, June 2, of the current budget season with final budget votes now scheduled for the June 16 council session.

(Daily News File Photo)

The members also have budget changes to work out before final budget votes later this month. They will tackle those issues during a Tuesday morning committee session.

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

The company undertaking the brewery renovation, 495 Tennessee LLC, is seeking city funding for “deferred maintenance” on the long-dormant brewery on the bluff overlooking Riverside Drive.

Billy Orgel, one of the development’s partners, told council members last week the project’s $28 million financing plan includes historic tax credits that came up short – by $2.5 million – of the full amount needed to undertake the project.

“I’m not asking for a handout,” he told council members, likening it to city participation in the Crosstown Concourse and Chisca Hotel renovation projects. “I’m asking for participation.”

Orgel’s presentation to the council included an April 24 letter from Trustmark National Bank senior vice president Rick Neal, who said the bank may provide up to $14.7 million in financing for the project.

On the finance front, the council expects a consulting firm’s report on the city’s health care fund during June 16 committee sessions. Later that day, the legislators will take final budget votes effectively closing out City Hall’s budget season.

Most of the council debate is expected to be over pay raises granted to city employees by three-member council impasse committees. The pay raises would add millions to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s $656.5 million proposal. That includes 3 percent raises for police and firefighters.

The council is likely to take votes on some of the impasse decisions at the Tuesday session. It accepts the impasse committee decisions automatically unless there is a specific vote by the full council to veto those actions.

The other budget loose ends amount to less than $1 million.

The budget committee has recommended cutting $300,000 in funding to the city’s Information Technology division, which amounts to the rent for the division’s new office space at Pembroke Square. The division started moving into the leased office space last week.

“We either get that restored to the budget or the IT budget itself will have to get cut by that amount because they’ve got to be somewhere,” said city finance director Brian Collins.

The IT division was originally slated to move to the state office building in Civic Center Plaza that the city is buying. But the division was on an extended lease in Raleigh and made the decision to ink a lease with Pembroke Square before the council approved the building purchase.

The council budget committee also recommended cutting $300,000 from the mayor’s office for five positions that would support Wharton’s newly created position, aimed at promoting minority business growth. Some on the council questioned whether more positions and added salaries would translate into minority business growth.

“Our position is that some of the targets that we want to hit, we’ll need those extra people on the ground to get it done,” Collins said. “It’s just not possible for one person to do all of those things. This is a larger commitment to minority participation.”

The budget committee recommended cutting $200,000 from the general services division that was to be used to replace uniformed Memphis Police officers at City Hall with private security guards.

The police officers at the City Hall entrance were replaced several years ago by private security guards. The city switched back to police when an irate citizen speaking at the end of a council session produced a gym bag that he placed on the podium with a distinct metal clank.

The episode alarmed several council members, even though the object making the sound turned out to be a broken trailer hitch. Council members questioned how the bag made it through City Hall’s metal detectors.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 64 151 1,493
MORTGAGES 45 105 1,152
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 5 19 209
BUILDING PERMITS 201 410 3,466
BANKRUPTCIES 35 119 872
BUSINESS LICENSES 9 32 361
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0