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VOL. 133 | NO. 17 | Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Council Talks With Head of TVA, Votes on Two More Ballot Questions

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members talk with Tennessee Valley Authority president Bill Johnson Tuesday, Jan. 23, meet Mayor Jim Strickland’s nominee to replace retiring Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president Jerry Collins and may renew discussions of electric and gas rate hikes proposed by MLGW that it voted down two weeks ago.

The council also votes Tuesday on the utility’s budget.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage and updates from committee sessions earlier in the council day.

The discussion with Johnson will be during the 1:45 p.m. council executive session. MLGW is TVA’s largest customer for electricity. During discussions of the rate hike proposals two weeks ago, some council members said they wanted to discuss with Johnson a new multi-year contract agreement for electricity similar to the recent 15-year pact with MLGW that has expired.

Collins urged the council to reconsider its rejection of the rate increases last week, noting the electric division hasn’t had a rate hike, other than pass-throughs of wholesale power costs, for 14 years. He pointed out electric rates were lowered in 2016 after the council at first balked at a water rate increase that same year. The gas division’s last increase was in 2008.

“MLGW also has the need to invest in our infrastructure to improve reliability and replace aging infrastructure,” Collins wrote in an open letter last week. “Capital plans for the next few years call for substation upgrades, cable replacements, automated switches (to improve outage restoration time) and gas pipeline replacements. Without additional funds from modest rate increases, our ability to execute these capital improvements will be limited.”

The council, at its first meeting of the year, voted down proposed rate increases over several years of 6.9 percent for electricity and 9 percent for gas. The council also reconsidered an earlier rejection in December of a 1 percent rate hike for water and approved that rate hike.

Collins has suggested a smaller percentage rate hike for the next year to take effect in February and then wait to see if the new MLGW president recommends further rate hikes.

Strickland’s nominee for MLGW president is Jarl T. Young. Young is currently general manager of customer service and marketing for Gulf Power in Pensacola, Florida. Strickland selected Young at the end of a national search and if confirmed by the council Tuesday, Young would take office March 19.

In the interim MLGW chief financial officer Dana Jeanes is serving as acting CEO.

Young’s selection will go before a council committee at 9:30 a.m.

The same committee will also consider Strickland’s nomination of Shirley Floyd, currently the city comptroller, to be the city’s chief financial officer. Floyd would succeed Brian Collins, who left in December for a private-sector job in Chicago. Floyd would be paid $145,520 annually.

Council members also take final votes Tuesday on two citywide ballot questions for the November elections. One would change the city charter to abolish the runoff provision that currently applies to the seven single-member council seats on the 13-member body. If no candidate in a single-member council district race gets a majority of the votes cast in the October city elections, the top two vote-getters advance to a separate runoff election in November to determine the winner.

A federal court ruling in 1991 declared the runoff provision unconstitutional in citywide races and abolished the at-large council positions. The current super district council seats – three positions for two super districts, each district covering half of the city – replaced the at-large council seats.

The other ballot question up for a final vote Tuesday would extend the current term limits for the mayor and all 13 council members. Currently they can serve no more than two consecutive terms. The ballot question would change that to no more than three consecutive terms.

If approved by city voters, the change would apply to the six current council members who are now serving their second consecutive term on the council.

Strickland has said regardless of what happens with the proposal he intends to run for a second and final term in 2019.

The council also takes a vote on third and final reading of an ordinance that would allow open containers of alcohol on Main Street from Exchange Street to Crump Boulevard. The provision would be similar to the existing city ordinance that allows Beale Street patrons to buy beer or mixed drinks in clubs and take them outside in the entertainment district between Second and Fourth streets.

And the council takes a final vote Tuesday on changes to the city’s ordinance that sets conditions for closing city streets for marathons and other similar events for charity. It would set up a procedure for neighbors along those closed roads to object, require more advance notice for a city permit to close the street and establish a procedure to appeal the closing.

In planning and development items, the council votes Tuesday on the Dwell at Shelby Farms mixed-use development on 71.15 acres on the north side of Raleigh-LaGrange Road near the dead end of Trinity Road. The development by Crews Investment Holdings and Elmington Capital Group includes apartments, senior housing, townhouses and single-family homes.

The council also hears an appeal by the Southwind Residential Properties Association LLC of the Land Use Control Board’s earlier approval of an 11-lot subdivision on 5.3 acre on the north side of Tournament Drive.

At a 10 a.m. committee session, council members discuss the donation of $12,275 by the Yorkshire Neighborhood to install two license plate readers to be installed in the East Memphis neighborhood.

Such donations by neighborhood groups that go to the Memphis Shelby County Law Enforcement Foundation for video or “Skycop” cameras to be monitored by police are a common feature on the council’s agenda.

Donations for the license plate readers, which scan the plates and notify police of any warrants based on the scan, are an unusual use of the process.

Council members could add approval of the donation to the Tuesday agenda for a vote.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751