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VOL. 130 | NO. 180 | Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Council Approves DROP Freeze To Bolster Police Ranks

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members gave final approval Tuesday, Sept. 15, to a freeze on the city’s deferred retirement program in an effort to bolster police ranks and keep the force from dropping below 2,000 officers.

The freeze option is open to 280 city employees –178 of them police officers – who, under what is known as the DROP program, remain on the job for up to three years and announce their retirement date in advance.

An amendment Tuesday before the final vote would allow those taking the freeze to go back to work for the city – with health insurance coverage, the primary motivator – for up to two years.

The 7-5 council vote on the proposal by Memphis mayor A C Wharton came after lots of council debate including questions about how effective the freeze would be in beefing up police ranks.

The administration announced Tuesday it was preparing what Human Resources division director Quintin Robinson termed a “massive succession planning process” to be done by an outside consultant.

“We will double down on our effort,” Robinson added.

That caused several critics of the freeze to accuse the administration of coming up with a long term plan that should have been in place before the city cut pension and health insurance benefits to employees and retirees.

Wharton has acknowledged that the cuts have played a role in the drop in police ranks. But he’s defended the cuts as necessary to pay for the city’s unfunded pension and health insurance liabilities.

In other action Tuesday, the council approved the appointment of Laura Harris to the Memphis Housing Authority board. The item was added to the agenda to have Harris on the MHA board and voting in time for a Wednesday, Sept. 16, meeting.

At the meeting, the MHA board will consider further action on suspended executive director Robert Lipscomb. Lipscomb was suspended with pay by the board earlier this month pending the outcome of a police investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

He resigned as the city’s director of the Housing and Community Development division, another appointed city position he held, also as a result of the sexual misconduct allegation.

The council delayed a vote Tuesday on an appeal of a two-lot subdivision at the northeast corner of Williamsburg Lane and Village Road. Neighbors of the development are appealing the approval of the project by the Land Use Control Board.

The council approved the delay until its Oct. 6 meeting to give both sides in the dispute another chance to resolve their differences and reach a compromise.

In other zoning and development items, the council approved an expansion of the Kirby Pines Estate planned development at Winchester Road and Kirby Parkway. That approval included the closing of Kirby Road north of Winchester Road.

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