VOL. 131 | NO. 253 | Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Council Questions, Approves Airport Revenue Bonds
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members approved the issuance of $110 million in airport authority revenue bonds at the last council meeting of 2016. But council members served notice that in the new year they expect the airport authority and other public entities to do better in minority and locally owned-business contracting.
The comments from several council members Tuesday, Dec. 20, came the day after Shelby County Commissioners approved a new set of percentages for minority participation in all county government contracts.
The bonds being issues for capital projects at Memphis International Airport are to be privately placed, as opposed to a public bond issue.
Council members Martavius Jones estimated minority and locally owned businesses got 3 percent to 7 percent of the business from three previous public airport bond issues.
“What I feel has been missing has been the will,” Jones said. “We had the will in this particular instance to go to Chicago and Milwaukee. … That does nothing for people here in Memphis, Tennessee. I want to see some intentionality.”
“Are there really no other firms here that can do that work?” council chairman Kemp Conrad asked.
Council member Berlin Boyd, who is the incoming chairman, was also critical.
“I thought this was the Memphis-Shelby County Airport,” he said. “It sounded like I was in a different city. If we’re going to ever expand upon the amount of flights that’s taken out of Memphis, we must have jobs and companies out there that can provide for our citizens to take frequent flights.”
Airport officials expect to come back to the council in October with a public bond issue.
The council voted down a proposed sale of two used garbage vehicles to the city of Whiteville, Tennessee. The pair of 1996 Crane Carriers, used for solid waste collection, had been declared surplus vehicles in the city fleet. They were to be sold to Whiteville for $1,000 each.
Council members questioned whether the city couldn’t get more selling them for scrap or could get more at auction.
Conrad said the mayor of Whiteville approached him and he turned the matter over to the administration. But he said the questions from other council members demonstrated the need for a policy.
“It’s probably not the wisest thing to do,” he said before the vote. “This is a bird in the hand, but I personally wouldn’t do it again.”
Conrad’s year-long term as chairman ended with Tuesday’s council session. He turned over the gavel to incoming chairman Berlin Boyd after the council approved a realignment of council committees to replace the council rules committee with a personnel committee that adds intergovernmental and annexation matters to its subject areas. Conrad will chair the new committee.
In planning and development items, the council approved an 81-room hotel at the southeast corner of Interstate 40 and Whitten Road as well as a rezoning of 4230 Raleigh-Millington Road south of Egypt Central from single-family residential to commercial mixed use.
The council also approved $300,000 in city grant funding to the Binghampton Development Corporation for the Binghampton Gateway Center commercial development at Tillman and Sam Cooper. The grant was included in the previous year’s city budget.
The Blight Authority of Memphis has $100,000 in city funding that qualifies the anti-blight agency for forgivable loans to battle blight given by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.
And the council approved $270,000 for a traffic signal at South Third Street and West Raines Road.