VOL. 131 | NO. 54 | Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Council Tallies Damage in 'Day of Bad News'
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council member Berlin Boyd summed up City Hall’s attitude Tuesday, March 15, during the council’s executive session. “Today is the day of bad news,” he said after a briefing from Mayor Jim Strickland on the deannexation bill approved the night before by the Tennessee House.
That was followed by more details on the estimated $60 million it will cost to replace the entire radio system for local first responders from the radios to the towers used to transmit their signals.
“We’ve got to figure something out,” Boyd added. “This is very disheartening.”
The executive session was the gathering point Tuesday for the various political setbacks and fiscal challenges as well as expressions of frustration.
Here are the latest developments on those fronts:
Strickland said the city is working to defeat the deannexation proposal in the state Senate where it could come to a vote either Thursday or sometimes next week depending on who you talk to in the Legislature.
He also said the ability to petition for referendums to undo annexations under the provisions of the House bill would have an economic impact on the city of $27 million to $80 million in lost tax revenue. And he estimated a 30-cent to 70-cent city property tax hike would be one way to make up for the lost revenue.
Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham is preparing an estimate of how much it would cost his office to take over police duties from the city in deannexed areas, according to Strickland.
Strickland’s assumption is that all of the residential areas eligible, some annexed 18 years ago by the city, would probably seek referendums to be deannexed from Memphis.
If commercial and industrial areas annexed sought deannexation such a move would have to be approved by the city council. Strickland said the administration would review those requests on a case-by-case basis.
He also said there had not been enough “due diligence” on the provisions of the House and Senate versions as the proposal has morphed from a proposal the city originally believed would only target the Southwind and south Cordova annexations.
Those were the city’s two most recent annexations before the legislature passed the law that effectively ends annexation.
The bill’s House sponsor, Mike Carter of Ooltewah, was critical of the city before Monday’s House vote for overstating the economic impact which he pegged at $27 million.
Council attorney Allan Wade talked guardedly about the city’s options should a deannexation proposal become law. He told council members that proponents of the measure were amending the measure to make it unassailable in a court challenge.
He also said the city’s responses outside court could include turning over law enforcement within the city of Memphis to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office or selling Memphis Light Gas and Water Division.
Wade was quick to say those were not options he had discussed with Strickland.
He also disputed the bill’s characterization of the Memphis annexations as “egregious” – a legal term that Memphis legislators tried to take out of the bill. Without the term, Carter said the bill could be declared unconstitutional.
Wade said the annexations described as egregious include actions that weren’t seriously contested in court and agreements between the city and those annexed to be taken into the city.
Public Safety Radio System:
The $60 million estimate of the city’s share to replace the radio system owned by Memphis and Shelby County government is before a request for proposal is issued. The county’s share would be $26 million.
Look for the RFP on the first of two parts of this project at the end of March. The second part should go out to bid in the fall.
Council members had plenty of questions about what would happen if the current radio system was not replaced. Officials with Mission Critical Partners, the city’s consultant on the matter, said the current system could fail at critical moments because of outdated software and an inability to get replacement parts for radios.
The council questions also centered on who sets the standards for such radio systems and their replacement.
The $60 million expense would be over three fiscal years.
Warren and Tulane Apartments:
Ed Jennings Jr., the regional administrator of the federal Housing and Urban Development department, came to City Hall Tuesday to talk about the relocation of residents from the two apartment complexes owned by Global Ministries Foundation.
HUD officials announced in February they were ending the rent subsidies at both apartments because each complex had failed a second federal inspection this past January.
The relocation of both complexes involves 350 families and Jennings estimated the process will take six months.
Dorian Jenkins, interim director of the Memphis Housing Authority, said new housing subsidy vouchers essential to the relocation should all be issued by April 30. Of the 350 families, 321 already have the vouchers to move to other subsidized housing, Another 15 were ruled ineligible for vouchers and their denials are being reviewed. And the cases of 19 other families are being reviewed.
Foote Homes/South City:
The city got surprised last month by word from Strickland that the city will have to come up with $30 million of its own money over five fiscal years to match the $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant the city got last year from HUD for the demolition and redevelopment of Foote Homes.
The conversion of the city’s last large public housing project to a mixed-use mixed-income development is part of a larger $209-million redevelopment plan called South City. South City already includes a similar conversion of what was the Cleaborn Homes public housing development on the other side of Lauderdale from Foote Homes.
In order to use city capital improvement funds for the city match, the city has to have an urban renewal plan approved by the council. A public hearing for that plan is the next step followed by a council vote.
No date has been set at this point for the hearing. Look for the council to do that at its April 5 meeting.
The relocation of 380 families is expected to start in April and run through the end of September, said city Housing and Community Development Director Paul Young.
Demolition of Foote Homes would begin in September with the first phase of construction in May 2018.
Police Body Cameras:
Memphis Police brass told council members Tuesday they hope to start the gradual roll out of police body cameras in April starting in groups of 10 of the cameras at a time.
It’s the closest the city has come to setting a date for the use of the cameras since Strickland scrapped any start date in January citing work flow problems with public records requests and storage of the video recorded for those records requests as well as for use as evidence by the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office.
The city plans to start hiring analysts to handle its end of the work flow in April with funding the administration found from rearranging the police department budget for the current fiscal year.
District Attorney General Amy Weirich is preparing to take an ask for additional funding to Shelby County Commissioners. The commission has a legal opinion from the county attorney saying the commission is not required to provide additional funding for something connected to MPD cameras.
No council votes were taken on any of the matters Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the council approved a special permit for a memorial garden with mausoleums, crypts and a columbarium at the Serenity Columbarium and Memorial Garden on Sycamore View Road northwest of Shelby Oaks Drive.
The council also approved a pair of hotels on Union Avenue’s south side on the block between Hernando and Fourth Streets by developer Nitinkumar Patel.
One is a 115-room Holiday Inn Express at 235 Union Ave. and the other is a 143-room Hilton Garden Inn at 195 Union.
And the council approved a rezoning of land at Prescott and Raines Road just north of Delta Wholesale Liquors Inc. The business is turning the land into a parking lot for its employees.
The council delayed setting a date Tuesday for the public hearing and council vote on the Parkside at Shelby Farms Park planned development, a set of three six-story apartment building on the northern border of Shelby Farms Park.