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VOL. 132 | NO. 137 | Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Council Approves Sanitation Workers Benefits

By Bill Dries

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There may be more than 14 city sanitation workers from 1968 who are still alive. And the city is double-checking its list as the Memphis City Council approved Tuesday, July 11, the payment of $50,000 grants to 14 of the workers it has already identified including four still working for the city.

The council action also approves the other part of the proposal by Mayor Jim Strickland that creates a supplemental retirement plan for current sanitation workers whose service is after 1968. In the plan the city will match contributions by those employees to a 401(a) retirement plan.

City public works director Robert Knecht said the city is working to verify some additional sanitation workers who claim they were on the job in 1968.

“We have learned there are others that potentially exist,” Knecht told council members. “We are cleaning that up to make sure we have everyone. … There could be six to seven maybe.”

The action comes as the city prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968 sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

At the end of the strike, the city recognized the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as the union representing the workers. They were offered a choice of becoming part of the city’s pension system or Social Security and they chose Social Security.

Over the years, the union and sanitation workers have tried to reverse the decision. Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton did switch the workers to the city pension plan for a year starting in 1999 before the city was told by federal officials it couldn’t do that.

“We can never make up the sacrifices that these individuals made financially because they stepped up and went above the call of duty to do things and participate and risk their lives,” council chairman Berlin Boyd said. “There’s no other administration that has stepped up to try to find a solution to a decision that their union told them would be the best decision. … That was a poor decision made by their union in 1968.”

Boyd also said he hoped to increase the 3 percent of income cap in the supplemental plan at a later date.

In other action Tuesday, the council gave final approval to stormwater and sanitary sewer fees over the next five years. The actions effectively close out the city’s budget season a month after the council gave final approval to the city operating and capital budgets as well as the city property tax rate.

Council members delayed action on both increases because of concerns about the hike in the stormwater fees in the original proposal.

The amended version approved Tuesday changes the balance of bond debt versus cash to finance $150 million in public works capital projects the city is required to do under a federal court consent decree.

The bonds will finance approximately 70 percent of the cost and the remaining 30 percent comes from fee revenues including the increase in the fee. The lower percentage for the cash share of the financing led to a lower increase in the fee which takes effect starting in January.

Council members delayed to their July 25 meeting a third and final vote on an ordinance that would set grounds rules for booting cars on private property, primarily paid parking lots. The ordinance changes the fee companies are allowed to charge to remove the boot that prevents a car from being driven. The current fee is $125. The new fee in the proposal would be $50. Parking lot owners and tow truck company operators complained to the council that the new rate is too low. Council member Martavius Jones said the fee to remove a boot in Nashville is currently $50.

The council approved a set of three single-family homes by Richmark Homes LLC on the southeast corner of East Irvin Drive and Park Avenue.

And the council delayed for two weeks a vote on a used car dealership on the site of the old Platinum Plus strip club at 2514 Mount Moriah Road at American Way.

And the council set a July 25 hearing and vote on the Overton Gateway multi-family apartment development proposed for both corners of Sam Cooper Boulevard at East Parkway.

Other items approved Tuesday included acceptance of Shelby County government’s $4.9 million share of the Crosstown Concourse project as agreed to in 2014. City government’s share of funding for the $180-million project is $15 million. And the council approved a $70,695 change order increase to Wagner General Contractor’s repairs and improvements to the Memphis Zoo’s “Once Upon A Farm” exhibit.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 19 170
BUILDING PERMITS 28 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 25 98 716
BUSINESS LICENSES 4 26 302
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0