Today’s email might be on the long side, but I think it’s important you clearly hear from me about where we stand on a couple of issues that have been on many of your minds this week: 1) power outages and MLGW’s infrastructure, and 2) the future of Tom Lee Park and Memphis in May.
First, let’s talk about power outages.
We had too many of them for too long after Saturday night’s storm. It’s unacceptable.
So, how to fix it?
Let’s all agree, as our colleagues at the Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Division do, that our electric infrastructure is old and in dire need of an overhaul. No question there.
It’s a high-dollar endeavor, though, and paying for it is the challenge.
We are serious about the possibility of finding major savings — which could potentially fund this infrastructure overhaul — if we were to change the source from which MLGW buys its power. Earlier this year, we commissioned a group that’s doing a thorough study of all power sources to find the facts in what is an incredibly complex situation.
Once that work is done, we’ll be in an informed position to make a call about the future of buying power for Memphians — with an eye toward improving infrastructure and keeping bills low. Stay tuned.
Now, as for Tom Lee Park.
Like so many of you, I had a blast at Tom Lee Park this month enjoying Memphis in May.
There is no question that whatever is done with Tom Lee Park must ultimately end up accommodating the continued success of Memphis in May.
There’s also no question that Tom Lee Park can be a better asset for our citizens the other 11 months of the year.
Too many people have tried to characterize that as an either/or. I don’t. I continue to believe that we can have an improved Tom Lee Park, whatever form that takes, that also allows Memphis in May to thrive. Full stop.
The Memphis River Parks Partnership has proposed significant changes to the park, and Memphis in May is concerned about how they would impact the festival. So, I brought both sides into mediation to find middle ground — because while these are two private entities, this is, at the end of the day, still a City asset. We’ve made progress in mediation in recent weeks, but the proposed park changes are now on hold so our partners at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose shrewd engineering work created the park some three decades ago, can review MRPP’s proposed design.
This may take a while, of course. But it’s vitally important that any improvements continue to provide for the safe use of the park, and that they don’t affect flood control, the stabilization of the bluff, or the river navigation channel.
Coupling the Corps’ input with the progress of mediation, we’ll eventually be in a much more informed position to match the right changes to the final amount of the fundraising efforts. (Speaking of which, we aren’t spending a penny of general fund dollars on Tom Lee Park. Those go to core services like police and fire.)
Meanwhile, a few things I hope you didn’t miss this week:
- Working together with the City Council, we appropriated $2 million to ensure that the long-awaited full replacement of Ed Rice Community Center in Frayser gets underway in the 2019-20 fiscal year! And that’s on top of the new Frayser branch library, which we’ve included in our 2019-20 budget proposal that’s in front of the Council now.
- We also worked with the Council to find funding for a handful of road improvement projects in the industrial area south of the airport, as well as widening westbound Poplar to three lanes over and west of Interstate 240.
- If you’re on Raines Road in Whitehaven this week, you’ll see paving crews. We’ll keep up the citywide paving blitz this summer as we’ve doubled the amount we spend to repave streets.
Oh, and one more VERY important thing: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MEMPHIS! We’re a city that’s changed the world and continues to change it, and I hope everyone took some time this week to commemorate the 200 years since our founding.
I also hope you’ll make it down to Mud Island River Park sometime this summer to check out this new view of Downtown: