Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Council Recap: Pre-K Funding, Public Art, & Grocery Stores

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 10:35 AM

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The city’s plan to generate $6 million for pre-k by 2022 was approved by the Memphis City Council on the first of three hearings Tuesday.


The plan to provide $6 million of the needed $16 million for universal needs-based pre-k was first announced Saturday by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.


Tuesday the council approved on first reading establishing a special pre-k fund, fed by revenue collected from companies whose pay-in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement has terminated and are paying increased property taxes.


Additionally, the plan calls for the equivalent of one penny from existing city property taxes  to be put in the fund.


The remaining $10 million gap will be filled by a number of different sources.


Currently, 7,500 out of the estimated total needs-based enrollment of 8,500 pre-k seats are funded. But, a federal grant that funds 1,000 seats is expiring in 2019, possibly leaving an additional 1,000 seats to fund.


The goal is to ensure that pre-k enrollment is at 100 percent by 2020.


In other business, the council received incomplete results from a 14-day grocery store feasibility study it approved two weeks ago.


The study, conducted by consulting firm Socially Twisted, was meant to determine the sustainability of a grocery store at two locations where Kroger recently closed its stores.


However, Rhonnie Brewer with Socially Twisted said the study was only able to run for 6 days instead of the planned 14.


The full results are expected to be presented at the council’s next meeting. In the meantime, Brewer said the firm is looking for grocers to take over the former Kroger store locations at 3rd and Lamar in the Southgate shopping center and on Airways in Orange Mound that closed in February.


The group is looking at non-conventional grocery store models, similar the one ran by the Salvation Army that is set to open in Baltimore. Brewer said they might look to partner with a local nonprofit to open similar stores here.


She said this type of partnership would open up more resources and is better for the community because nonprofits aren’t in the business to make money.


Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said the process needs to be expedited because every day that there is no grocery store in those two locations, the surrounding communities are moving closer to becoming food deserts.


The council also revisited the topic of public art, making an amendment to the public art moratorium it approved two weeks ago, which put a 120-day stay on new public art in the city. Tuesday the council changed the moratorium to exclude six projects that are already in progress. One of those includes the ‘I Am A Man’ commemorative plaza on Pontotoc and Hernando.


The council also announced that on April 4, it will unveil a plan to help citizens pay off driving-related fines.


The program will provide financial assistance so that residents can reinstate suspended, revoked, or cancelled drivers licenses.


Assistance will also be provided to those who have successfully completed a diversion program, but have been unable to pay necessary fines to have the offenses expunged from their record.


Chairman Berlin Boyd said this is an effort to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while addressing poverty and meeting the needs of citizens.


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