By next week, citizens who need to get orders of protection or file arrest warrants will do so at the new Family Safety Center since the Citizens' Dispute Center is moving from its current home at 201 Poplar to the new center at 1750 Madison in Midtown.
“Having the Citizens’ Dispute Center located at the Family Safety Center will make it easier for victims. It will ensure victims get a better-coordinated response by all of the agencies involved in their case,” said Olliette Murry-Drobot, executive director of the Family Safety Center.
The Citizens' Dispute Center processed more than 4,000 orders of protection, issued when someone is threatened by another person, in 2011. After filing their order at the center, the victim will be able to meet with officers from the domestic violence units of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office or the Memphis Police Department in the same building.
About 20 social service agencies, such as the Shelby County Rape Crisis Center and the Shelby County Crime Victims Center, are represented at the Family Safety Center. It's open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 :30 p.m. Call 901-222-4400 for more information.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is giving citizens a chance to sit with him face-to-face to share their concerns about county government and suggestions on how to make it better.
The first "Meet the Mayor" session is scheduled for Tuesday, July 10th, and each participant will be given a 10-minute meeting. Division directors will be present or available by phone for specific questions or concerns the mayor may need help answering.
“I routinely attend community forums and neighborhood meetings, but those do not allow me enough time to speak personally with citizens. This will get me better acquainted with people and use their ideas to improve Shelby County government,” Luttrell said.
Meetings are first-come, first-served and will last from 1 to 3 p.m. on the eighth floor of the Vasco Smith Administration Building at 160 N. Main. To schedule a meeting, call 222-2000.
Plans to build a $16 million parking garage and Lick Creek flood retention basin in Overton Square are moving right along, thanks to the Memphis City Council's executive committee approving the acquisition and lease of property for the garage's development today.
The resolution that passed also approved the lease of that Overton Square property to Loeb Properties and Hattiloo Theatre to further the Square's redevelopment.
The 450-space parking garage, designed by Looney Ricks Kiss, will be built atop a flood basin designed to collect 28 percent of the excess runoff water that may collect in a 20-year flood event. Pumps installed in the basin will help drain the water. The garage will be built on the far end of the massive parking lot that faces Side Street Grill and TheatreWorks. Hattiloo Theatre will locate to a newly constructed space in front of the garage facing Cooper.
Part of the funds that will be used to build the garage and basin are federal disaster relief dollars acquired by the city after a May 2010 Lick Creek flooding event, and the rest is public dollars.
"Engineers agree that Lick Creek is the most sensitive basin in Memphis," said architect Tom Marshall.
Marshall presented a slide slow that identified 48 city projects that could help mitigate flooding in other areas of town. But that wasn't enough to please city councilwoman Wanda Halbert, who complained that the city didn't have enough concrete plans to resolve flooding issues in other areas.
"I would appreciate not having to back into my community and explain to them why I'm using their tax dollars on this project that deals with more than flooding," Halbert said, in reference to the fact that taxpayer dollars are being spent not only on the flood basin, but on the parking garage.
City director of Housing and Community Development Robert Libscomb said he would come back to the council soon to present the city's plans for other areas.
The answers to why Memphis has some of the highest airfares in the country came as no surprise to many assembled in the audience at a Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce-sponsored air service public forum this morning at Christian Brothers University.
That's because the overwhelming responses — high jet fuel prices and a lack of competition — given by the airline industry executives who sat on the six-person panel were the same answers that have been given time and time again since the citizen demand for lower airfares picked up steam a few months ago.
According to Commercial Appeal editor and panel moderator Chris Peck, the panel was intended to help people understand why they pay what they do for tickets. But at the panel's end, lower airfare advocate Cheri DelBrocco stood up and told the panel that people are looking for answers as to how the powers-that-be plan to lower those fares.
"That's what we came for," said a clearly frustrated DelBrocco, who had earlier called the panel a "dog and pony show" on the Delta Does Memphis Facebook page.
Throughout the event, moderator Peck read written questions to the panel from note cards collected from the audience. Airline Weekly managing partner Seth Kaplan was asked why fares here are so high.
His response? "I cannot overstate the impact of how high fuel prices in the airline industry has forced airlines to raise fares."
When asked why Little Rock, which tends to have lower fares than Memphis, hasn't been as affected by those high fuel prices, Kaplan said the lack of a low-cost competitor to Delta Airlines, which has a hub here, is what hurts Memphis airfares. He also said a few expensive non-stop flights in Memphis drive up the average cost of fares here.
"The average fare is $100 more here than in Little Rock, but Memphis has some non-stop flight options that Little Rock doesn't have. That brings up the average fare prices here," Kaplan said.
Kaplan said low-cost competitors are more likely to come to an airport that's making money. In Memphis, Delta has actually cut back flights. Memphis Airport Authority president Larry Cox said Delta has cut back flights from 235 per day to 150.
But Cox said Delta's shrinking service along with a new incentive package the airport can begin offering carriers on July 1st may actually help lure low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines. In the past, Cox said Southwest had turned Memphis down because both the old Northwest Airlines hub and the Delta hub were too big to compete against.
"This is the right time and the right incentive to make a difference," Cox said.
Memphis Convention & Visitor's Bureau president Kevin Kane revealed that he and Cox have been trying to lure Southwest to Memphis for 20 years. He said there were some legal reasons before as to why Southwest couldn't locate here, but those were no longer an issue.
"When Southwest does ramp up, Delta will do whatever they can to be competitive," Kane said.
Southwest Airlines is expected to locate to Memphis in the next 12 months, but Kaplan said Memphians may be surprised to see that it might not make as much difference in fare prices as they'd like to see.
"Southwest will be here with their own planes at some point. That will be helpful, but don't think that will change the world and fares will tumble," Kaplan said.
Chip Barclay, president of the American Association of Airport Executives, agreed.
"Southwest will not solve all your problems. They primarily serve the high-volume markets," Barclay said, alluding to the fact that airline carriers in Memphis are actually cutting back service. He did, however, say that Memphis still has a robust level of service compared with other cities its size.
As for the economic impact of Memphis' high fares, Kane said the convention business hasn't slowed since fares have risen. He said 2012 has been a record year for conventions in Memphis and that a lack of large hotels presents more of a problem than high airfare. John Moore, president of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, said the higher fares were affecting small businesses much more than large corporations, such as FedEx, which often cut deals with airlines to fly their employees.
Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn's proposal to establish an ad hoc committee to study the need for a red light district for the city's strip clubs was tabled for one year while the council waits to see what effect the new county ordinance governing adult businesses has on the local economy.
For over a year, Flinn has been talking about the possibility of moving the strip clubs to an established district, where dancers would likely be able to have more nudity than is allowed under the county law while still allowing beer sales. Under the county ordinance that took effect January 1st, adult businesses are not allowed to sell alcohol if the dancers' genitals are exposed. Because of the law, dancers in most clubs now wear bikinis or shorts and halter tops, and the clubs continue to serve alcohol.
Strip club owners have argued that requiring dancers to be totally covered hurts business. Flinn's proposed committee would have studied whether or not a city red light district, where alcohol and some nudity would be permitted, would have made a difference.
Councilman Bill Boyd moved to hold the proposal for one year, and Flinn agreed with that motion. He said it would allow the proposed committee to have a better understanding of whether or not the county law was working.
Councilman Joe Brown called the idea of a red light entertainment district the equivalent of "a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah" and said council members should be ashamed of themselves for discussing issues of immorality.
"I will not be a part of any ad hoc committee," said Brown, after the motion was accepted to table the discussion for a year. "I would be ashamed of anyone on this body who would be on it."
To read more on Flinn's proposal, read this Q&A from the Memphis Flyer.
The stretch of Madison Avenue closed off last March after the partial collapse of a historic building at 118 Madison is set to re-open to two-way traffic by early fall, Mayor A C Wharton announced today.
A city contractor was issued a notice to proceed today to stabilize the shared wall between 118 Madison and 119 S. Court. Wall repairs are expected to be complete by the end of July, and demolition of the Madison structure should occur soon after. Earlier demolition efforts were halted because of the possibility of damaging the shared wall.
“This situation began with the laws of gravity and has continued under the laws of men,” said Mayor A C Wharton. “We are happy today to say that we have a timeline in place for shoring up the wall, and it’s one that we hope will satisfy the property owners, the affected business interests, tourists, and local residents and motorists. We are ready for Madison Avenue to be an avenue again.”
Cyclists can now plan their routes online through a a new website that includes maps of all the city's bike lanes and paths.
The site — bikepedmemphis.wordpress.com — shows maps of current and future bike facilities, including lanes, shared sign roadways, shared use paths (such as the Shelby Farms Greenline), and even dirt trails and walking paths.
Additionally, the site contains tips on cycling safety and commuting, and it will serve as a clearinghouse for bike and pedestrian-related public meeting dates.
More shelter dogs will be given a second chance at life, thanks to a new partnership between Memphis Animal Services and the Tennessee Task Force, one of 28 national Urban Search and Rescue task forces.
The partnership was announced on Thursday afternoon at a press conference at the new Memphis Animal Services facility on Appling City Cove. Memphis Animal Services personnel will be trained to identify dogs that could make effective search and rescue dogs.
Dogs that are accepted will enter the task force's training program. Trained dogs could eventually become part of a state and federal task force and be dispatched to find victims in disaster relief operations.
Currently, the Tennessee Task Force has 22 trained dogs. Deborah Burnett oversees the task force's canine training program, and she said some dogs from the local shelter may even be trained to work with other task forces across the country.
"We'll take as many dogs as we find that are viable candidates," Burnett said.
Burnett brought search and rescue dog Buster to press conference. Buster was rescued from a Texas animal shelter one day before he was scheduled to be euthanized.
Memphis Animal Services interim director James Rogers said the partnership would not only place eligible dogs into the search and rescue training program, but it may also help with training other shelter dogs that may not be candidates for search and rescue.
"Even if they're not accepted into the program, they'll be more adoptable," Rogers said.
In a narrow 7 to 6 vote, the Memphis City Council decided yesterday to allow a heavy industrial wood chipping operation on Knight-Arnold near Getwell, despite the opposition of dozens of community members in attendance.
Residents argue that the zoning "light industrial" is a holdover from the 1970's and no longer accurately represents the make up of the neighborhood — which consists of American Way Middle School, Getwell Elementary School, churches, day cares, an apartment complex, and an assisted living facility.
Teachers and students from American Way Middle School, Martavius Jones from the Unified Shelby County School Board, Pastor James Henderson of Abundant Life Church, Sierra Club representatives, and a representative from Delta Medical Center were all present. Among other concerns, residents cited mulching dust harmful to students and nearby residents, the possibility of mulch fires, increased truck traffic the operation would create, and the precedent set for future heavy industrial operations.
A toxicologist hired by MTL Environmental vouched that mulching operations were safe, noting that mulch is a ubiquitous substance in playgrounds and parks.
"We're not talking about a little mulch on a playground," countered Rita Harris of the Sierra Club. "We're talking about five acres of mulch."
Still, Councilman Jim Strickland, who visited the mulch yard and saw firsthand the heavy industrial wood chipper in operation, expressed doubts about dust from the yard traveling far enough to reach the surrounding businesses and homes. He also walked around the vicinity of the mulch yard and said he could not discern a noticeable change in noise levels when the machine was running.
He voted in support of MTL Environmental's wood chipping operation, along with Reid Hedgepeth, Bill Boyd, Shea Flinn, Edmund Ford Jr., Kemp Conrad, and Bill Morrison. Voting in opposition were Janis Fullilove, Joe Brown, Harold Collins, Myron Lowery, Lee Harris, and Wanda Halbert, the councilwoman for that district.
For further reading, check out our initial coverage of the Mulch Madness.
Memphis Animal Services employees will be trained in animal handling and the law on Thursday afternoon. Since three employees were arrested in early March for animal cruelty, interim shelter director James Rogers has made a commitment to retraining animal care technicians and animal control officers.
Whitney Jones, animal care manager at the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County, will train technicians on the proper use of catchpoles. Earlier this month, videos of workers misusing the poles by lifting animals off of the ground with them were posted on the Yes Biscuit blog. Those recorded incidents were the subject of many of the complaints against the shelter in last week's Memphis Animal Services advisory board meeting.
Jones will also teach employees alternative techniques for catching feral animals, such as scooping the animal up inside of a towel.
Also on Thursday afternoon, Judge Tarik Sugarmon will talk to animal control officers about the law and the officers' role in the justice system.
The training sessions are a result of a new partnership between Memphis Animal Services and the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County.
At last week's advisory board meeting, Rogers told attendees that he was committed to retraining employees. But some shelter critics scoffed when Rogers said he believed employees could be taught to show compassion.
A new Fraud, Waste, Abuse, and Ethics Hotline will give city of Memphis employees and citizens a place to report the wrongdoings of other city employees, Mayor A C Wharton announced on Wednesday.
Reports to the 800 number will be confidential, and the line will be open to city employees, vendors, business partners, and citizens. Those who would rather file fraud reports online can do so on a sister web-based application. Tips will be investigated by the city's internal auditors.
Callers may use the hotline to report anything from discrimination and harassment to on-the-job drug and alcohol abuse or financial irregularities.
“Even in an environment of plentiful resources, we would want to make sure that each dollar is spent wisely and only used for that which it was intended,” said Wharton. “We, of course, hope that our employees are not aware of any wrongdoing, but if they are, we hope they will speak up and report it.”
Reports can be made to (877) 918-2055 or online.
There was good news and bad news at Wednesday night's Memphis Animal Services (MAS) advisory board meeting. Interim shelter director James Rogers reported the euthanasia rate had dropped to 52 percent in the year to date versus 76 percent at this time last year.
But the adoption rate is also down — only 354 animals have been adopted out from January to February of this year versus 505 for the same two-month period last year. (UPDATE: For another take on the euthanasia rate and animal intake, read this post on Yes, Biscuit, which claims the numbers given at the advisory board meeting are inaccurate. The blog's author is basing this on shelter numbers she obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request).
Rogers reported that employees are currently being retrained. He said they'll be learning other methods of control besides the controversial "catch poles," which employees were seen mis-using on animals in videos posted on Yes Biscuit a few weeks ago. But Rogers did say he wouldn't do away with catch poles altogether despite an attempt by board member Don Siemer to have those poles banned. Siemer's motion died for lack of a second.
Rogers announced that plans are in the works to build an agility course for dogs, so the animals can be trained and made more adoptable. He said he planned to partner with a local Weight Watchers program to pair people looking to shed a few pounds with dogs to walk.
Rogers admitted that supervision in the shelter isn't as tight as he'd like it to be: "I'm looking to make sure our supervisors are trained. I want them to communicate up and down the corporate ladder."
Director of Public Services and Neighborhoods Janet Hooks said she'll be asking the Memphis City Council for $320,000 to hire additional animal care technicians, animal control officers, and a volunteer coordinator when the council considers the budget in April. Hooks also said the city has ordered 18 GPS devices to be installed in the animal control officers' vehicles. The devices will allow shelter administration to track officers' whereabouts.
During the meeting's public comment period, a suggestion was made to either require a vet or supervisor to oversee euthanasia procedures or to install a camera in the euthanasia room to monitor the practice. The suggestion was brought about by the recent news that three animal care technicians were witnessed (and later arrested for) abusing animals in the euthanasia room. The board eventually passed a motion requiring the city to install a closed-circuit camera in the euthanasia room.
County Commissioner Steve Mulroy's dog, Buster, may not have much in common with the cats of the House of Mews. But the commissioner says he's pretty sure the two species would agree on one thing: The Shelby County Commission should pass Mulroy's animal care ordinance requiring pet owners in the county to provide food and water to their pets daily.
Mulroy, his dog Buster, and commissioner Sidney Chism held a press conference outside the House of Mews on Saturday afternoon urging county residents to voice their support for the ordinance, which is up for its third and final reading on March 26th. Chism's dog Princeton was supposed to be in attendance, but Chism said he couldn't make it.
The ordinance requires pet owners to feed and provide fresh water for their animals daily, provide them relief from extreme temperatures, pick up pet waste, and groom animals to avoid health risks.
"County commissioners have been known to fight like cats and dogs, but on this issue, I think we should agree," Mulroy said.
However, that hasn't been the case with this ordinance. At its first reading, commissioners Terry Roland, Wyatt Bunker, and James Harvey argued against it. Harvey said the language was too intrusive, claiming the requirement to provide a pet with fresh water daily went too far. Roland complained that the ordinance put too many rules on people in rural Shelby County, and Bunker didn't like the requirement that pets must be given relief from extreme temperatures.
Now, Mulroy says a libertarian group and the Mid-South Tea Party have come out against the ordinance. But Chism said passing the ordinance is just common sense.
"The ordinance should have been passed, like, yesterday. We need to make sure our animals are taken care of because if we don't have laws in place, who is going to do it?" Chism asked.
There's already a city ordinance and a state law that deal with basic animal care, but nothing that applies directly to the county. Although the state law can be enforced in the county, it only deals with the most extreme forms of cruelty.
Former U.S. Postal Service manager James Rogers will serve as the interim administrator for Memphis Animal Services, Mayor A C Wharton announced yesterday.
The shelter has been operating without a director since former director Matthew Pepper's resignation last August. Since then, the shelter has relocated to a new state-of-the-art facility on Appling City Cove. It's also been the subject of a recent police investigation into allegations that employees were starving dogs held in the court case area. Shelter critics held a protest last weekend at Highland and Poplar.
Rogers has no shelter experience, but Wharton said he chose him for his business and management background.
"[The city was looking for] someone with strong leadership qualities, who is very experienced and comfortable in operating a major facility and overseeing a large staff. Mr. Rogers fits the bill perfectly, and I am delighted that he was willing to accept our offer to serve in this capacity," Wharton said.
The Memphis native graduated from LeMoyne-Owen College with a master's degree in business administration. In his role as a senior manager for the U.S. Postal Service, Rogers oversaw 17 other managers, 48 supervisors, and more than 1,600 employees.
In a news release on the Rogers announcement, Wharton admitted the shelter has much work to be done, but he emphasized positive changes that have been made at MAS so far.
"We have increased our positive outcomes for animals to the highest level in the history of the shelter," Wharton said. " We have reduced the euthanasia rate to a 20 percent lower level when comparing 2011 with 2009. In one day, we moved every pet from the old facility to the new shelter. In our new facility, we have installed some 45 cameras that are linked to Memphis Police’s award-winning Real Time Crime Center. Along the way, we have been able to root out irresponsible employees and fix broken internal systems.”
The Memphis City Council parks committee approved a measure on Tuesday morning to allow the city to enter into a contract with Tri-State Youth Baseball Academy, Inc. to manage and operate Jesse Turner/Bellevue Baseball Park.
The city-owned park is one of nearly 100 city baseball parks not being maintained by the city due to lack of funds and a short-staffed Parks Services department. Currently, the city only maintains three baseball parks, but they are complex lots with a total of 15 fields.
City councilwoman Wanda Halbert expressed some concern with the fees Tri-State plans to charge for use of the park. In the example she gave, if 10 teams want to play in a baseball tournament under Tri-State's management, they would have to pay $150 per team. Under the city's management, the same 10 teams would only have to pay $32 each. Halbert proposed an amendment that would allow the council to study how those fees are being used by Tri-State with the option of requiring them to lower the fees if the council deems it necessary.
A representative from Tri-State said the fees would be used to improve the park by re-sodding the field, repairing fencing and bleachers, and adding a new baseball diamond for younger players.
The full council will discuss the item in their meeting at 3:30 p.m. today.