VOL. 130 | NO. 48 | Wednesday, March 11, 2015
County Commission Ponders Local Disaster Fund
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners are considering matching a local disaster relief fund started by the Memphis City Council last year that would total $500,000.
Shelby County Commissioners are considering joining a local disaster relief fund started by the Memphis City Council after September flooding in Whitehaven and other parts of the city. County attorneys are reviewing the idea after County Mayor Mark Luttrell expressed concern.
(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
But a resolution to formally join in the fund drew “concern” Monday, March 9, from Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
“I don’t think we can legally do this,” Luttrell told commissioners questioning whether county funds can be used to provide relief for homeowners. “This really needs to be vetted. Let us take a deliberative approach.”
The resolution, proposed by commissioner Eddie Jones, was referred to a committee which will consider the matter March 25 and from there could return for a vote by the full commission on March 30.
Jones said the Sept. 11 flooding affected areas in six of the 13 county commission districts – most of them inside the city of Memphis.
“They put their funding up,” he said, referring to the City Council’s January decision. “And I’m going to move this before the body so we can do the same and move on to bring some relief to those families that suffered from this.”
Because the damage estimates from the flooding did not reach a certain threshold, the areas affected did not qualify for federal disaster assistance.
Drainage areas overgrown with brush further complicated the city’s response. The city has had to get permission from private property owners to clear the brush to prevent future flooding.
City Council member Harold Collins, who represents residential sections of Whitehaven hit hard and repeatedly by the flooding over several years, proposed the disaster relief fund that was approved by the council in January. The $250,000 in city funding is to come from city reserve funds. If the commission approves, the city amount would be matched with $250,000 from county government.
But county chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy said Monday he would prefer the funding not come from the county general fund.
“It would not be appropriate,” he said. “There is a serious question that needs to be researched.”
In other action Monday, commissioners approved a resolution urging state legislators from Shelby County to oppose a school vouchers bill making its way through the state House and the state Senate.
The commission also approved a $50,000 advance to the Shelby County Election Commission for the April 16 referendum in Lakeland on the proposed $50 million bond issue to build a Lakeland Prep school for grades 6-12.
The city of Lakeland will repay the county.
There was no debate on either item. They were approved as part of the commission’s consent agenda Monday on a unanimous 10-0 vote.