Updates from the Shelby County Commission

Commission update 2/24/2020

There is much going on in county government, but here’s a brief look at today’s meeting agenda.

Quinn Road development. This item came up early in the term, having been vetoed by Mayor Mark Luttrell. The commission upheld the veto, but the developer is back again now.

I tend to defer to the commissioner who represents the area in question, which in this case is David Bradford. That’s a policy I picked up from David Reaves, and it seems to be one shared by several on the board now. For me, that means there needs to be a really strong reason to object to what the most representative member of our body has determined is in the area’s best interests. I gave similar preference to Commissioner Mills when a gravel mine was up for approval in her district.

In this case, the plan seems to have been rejected by every board that has heard it. I toured the area myself last week.

Residency requirements. The latest compromise on this issue is sponsored by Commissioners Mills, Billingsley and Ford, and would exempt public safety employees from the charter requirement to live in the county, through April 1, 2022, and requiring those living beyond the county line to forfeit $2,500.

This proposal does not go nearly as far as it should, but the support wasn’t there to let voters decide whether to lift the requirement entirely, an opportunity voters in the City of Memphis will enjoy later this year.

But hopefully this will help the Sheriff and others who are facing a shortage of qualified candidates, to the extent anyone bothers to follow the residency requirements anyway, seeing as how they are currently not enforceable on anyone with the means and inclination of getting around them.

Because it was amended in committee, this resolution will need to appear yet again after today, for a fourth reading.

Records management consulting. This is a resolution approving a contract with a consultant that would help the county, including all departments and elected officials, develop a plan for digitizing, categorizing and dealing with records.

The board was divided on this in committee, and it’s doubtful enough votes are there for passage today. But there is universal agreement on the plan among department heads, it has the administration’s support, and the IT department and IT governance committee want this in place as part of the larger strategy to moderinze county government’s operations.

There was some thought among members that these funds could be redirected toward the new voting equipment we need, but that does not seem to be the case. These are restricted funds collected under contract from the various departments for the specific purpose of internal information technology support. My take: if these moneys cannot be transferred to the general fund, there’s no sense in denying IT’s request.

Groundwater resolution. I was glad to see universal support from commissioners in committee for a proposal that would defend the county’s ability to protect our water supply through the work of the Health Department and the Ground Water Control Board.

The county’s authority is threatened by a caption bill in the state legislature, over concerns from agricultural interests that farmers’ water rights are at risk. The Health Department says it is in the process of revising its well permitting process to correct an unintended consequence of recent updates to the rules, exempting such uses from an automatic appeals process.

If we can get the parties together, we may be able to work things out without the interference of any legislation or resolutions. To that end, I may move to return the resolution to committee to allow for those conversations to take place. What’s important is that we protect our water and our ability to safeguard it from pollution.