VOL. 130 | NO. 171 | Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Council Explores Retirees Return To Police Ranks
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members are exploring the idea of encouraging already-retired police officers to get back in uniform as reserve officers to keep the police force from slipping to less than 2,000 officers.
Reserve status, including coverage by the city’s health insurance and a token amount of pay while the retirees collect their pension, is already an option.
Council member Harold Collins wants to use the option to get reserves on the street on a more regular basis than occasional duty.
The idea wasn’t up for a vote at the Tuesday, Sept. 1, council session – only discussion.
But the council did move a step closer to final approval of a plan by the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to allow city employees to freeze their deferred retirement plans as another way to keep the police ranks above the 2,000 mark.
The deferred retirement option allows an employee to stay on the job for no more than three years before they retire and collect their retirement during that time as well as remain on the city’s health insurance as they continue to work.
The administration wants to freeze that option and allow those in the program to go back on the city payroll, putting off their retirement indefinitely.
The second of three readings of the ordinance to do that was approved Tuesday.
The council also approved a resolution by council member Wanda Halbert that would extend city health insurance coverage to city retirees young than age 65 through the 2016 calendar year.
The administration and council agreed last year to extend the coverage through 2015.
But the administration is opposed to any further extension saying it would endanger the city’s plan to begin paying its unfunded pension and health insurance liabilities. The city’s plan includes applying some savings from health insurance benefits changes to go toward the pension liability.
Halbert’s extension passed but it is a moot point, according to the administration and council attorney Allan Wade.
The $9 million cost of the extension through 2016 spans two fiscal years. Wade said the council cannot approve funding when a budget hasn’t been approved yet by a future council.
He also said the council can’t direct the administration to take the action, only ask it to.
City human resources director Quintin Robinson said the administration will not extend the coverage despite the passage of the resolution.
The council gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance that raises the hotel-motel bed tax from 1.7 percent to 3.5 percent with the revenue to go toward a $57 million renovation of the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
The council also approved the Binghampton Gateway Center at Sam Cooper and Tillman Street, a retail development to be anchored by a grocery store. Developers told the council they have a tentative commitment from a “national discount grocer” as well as a dollar store and are awaiting signed leases.
The council delayed until Nov. 3 a special-use permit for a hotel with retail on the northeast corner of Jackson Avenue and N. Front Street.
The developers have abandoned earlier plans for an extended stay hotel and say they have two national hotel chains interested if the council approves the development.
The council also began the process of undoing their earlier rejection of a retail center at Summer Avenue and Graham Street. The council rejected the development at its Aug. 18 meeting.
But the item was pulled Tuesday from the minutes of that meeting on reconsideration. The council is now scheduled to revisit the matter and vote on it again in six months.