Archive for the ‘Agenda Items’ Category
October 7, 2013
The Sears Crosstown Project
I am old enough to remember going to the Curb Market in crosstown with my mother and buying a bushel of snap beans for canning. I would have to spend the rest of the day cleaning and preparing them. On many occasions we then went to the Sears Crosstown store. It was huge and impressive. It was built for a certain time and market and whether it paid for itself over time I do not know. Looking at the Sears Company today, you have to wonder about their long term business knowledge. The Sears catalog was the amazon of its day and this store I believe was a catalog sales and warehouse center. Too bad they did not keep up with technology.
Now we have a choice. Tear down the old Sears building or spend at least $175 million to turn it into another Robert Lipscomb non tax producing renovation project. Where is the financial pro forma report on this project? If it is available I would like to see it.
Meanwhile let us look at how this is currently being financed according to a recent CA report.The Crosstown Development team says it has essentially assured $160 million in
funding — $25 million raised privately, $30 million in historic preservation tax credits,
$15 million in new market tax credits, $10 million in grants and other sources, and an
$80 million loan. Add the $15 million requested from the City of Memphis and you have the $175 million supposed front end cost.
- $30 million in historic preservation tax credits. The legislative incentive program to encourage the preservation of “historical buildings”. Congress instituted a two-tier Tax Credit incentive under the 1986 Tax Reform Act. A 20% credit is available for the rehabilitation of historical buildings and a 10% credit is available for non-historic buildings, which were first placed in service before 1936. Benefits are derived from tax credits in the year the property is placed in service, cash flow over 6 years and repurchase options in year six.
- $15 million in new market tax credits. The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program was established in 2000 as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The goal of the program is to spur revitalization efforts of low-income and impoverished communities across the United States and Territories. The NMTC Program provides tax credit incentives to investors for equity investments in certified Community Development Entities, which invest in low-income communities. The credit equals 39% of the investment paid out (5% in each of the first three years, then 6% in the final four years, for a total of 39%) over seven years (more accurately, six years and one day of the seventh year) . A Community Development Entity must have a primary mission of investing in low-income communities and persons.
If it goes forward, will it throw off tax money to the City of Memphis? If there are new small businesses that rent space or locate in the general area because of new traffic and people who live in the renovated building, I suppose there could be new sales tax money and employment opportunities. However it sounds like most of the occupiers of the space will be non-profits and art enterprises. There will be people living in the building but many of these will be rent subsidized people under section 8 or other federal and state programs. Taxpayers will be funding the whole project funded through these various federal tax credits.
As far as the building is concerned, I think it is ugly and really not worth saving. Possibly the architects can make it beautiful but at what cost compared to tearing it down and doing something else? I would like to see a financial analysis of this proposed project and no decision should go forward without this being presented to the public for discussion.
September 4, 2013
At the last meeting of the City Council (August 20, 2013) they passed the smart meter resolution. There was also on the agenda an item for a resolution to approve the 2014 Street Lighting Schedule of Fees. This item was delayed until sometime in September.
Let me get this straight. This is an expense that is covered by the services paid for by property taxes. Now the City Council wants to take it out of their expense budget and bill it directly to the taxpayers through the MLGW billing process. If you will look on the back of your MLGW bill you will see that you are already being billed directly for the following.
- Sewer Fee (Memphis)
- Solid Waste Fee (Memphis)
- Storm Water Fee (Memphis)
- Mosquito/Rodent Control Fee (Shelby County)
Now they want to put a street lighting fee on your bill directly instead of raising your property taxes.
August 20, 2013
Several interesting things are on the City Council Agenda today.
- The smart meter item is up for voting at a cost of $10.15 million.
- There is a proposal for time of use residential rate schedule for those customers choosing smart meters.
- There is a new charge to be on your MLGW bill for street lighting at a residential charge of $51.84 per year, an apartment charge of $12.96 per year and a commercial business charge of $103.80 per year. This is a backdoor tax increase.
- A resolution to accept funding for Memphis Public Library from Humanities TN for the public program Bridging Cultures: Muslim Contribution to the US Since 1776.
I previously made a comment about smart meters and was squarely in the middle of the two sides. One of my readers said that my comments were similar to the famous Whiskey speech by Judge Soggy Sweat. I plead guilty to listening to both sides of the debate and each side has a point. I think it should be approved but without time of use rates. It should be defeated if time of use rates are also approved.
August 6, 2013
I have commented several times on the question of smart meters. Generally I have been against buying and installing 1.3 million smart meters for a price of $215 million starting with the upcoming decision on 60,000. I have heard two presentations by the IBEW union, two by the public activists and two by Jerry Collins, President of the MLGW. Of the three parties, I must conclude that Mr. Collins makes the most sense and has the most points in favor of smart meters.
Here are the favorable points in favor of smart meters.
- To have the MLGW alerted automatically when power fails. The failure information will help speed the restoration effort.
- To eventually do away with the need for meter readers saving overall in operating costs due to less personnel required and saving the hassle of locked gates and pet problems.
- To have the availability of pre-pay service wherein customers can pay as they use the utilities and to automatically notify customers when they are running close to their prepayment amount. Customer cutoffs and reconnection can be done without a visit to the site.
I was at the recent Thursday night meeting on smart meters. Regardless of what the CA wrote the meeting was very informative. I am a graduate electrical engineer and a former chairman of the MLGW board. I respect the job that the MLGW does and Jerry Collins, Chris Bieber and the employees of the MLGW are good people.
However the union and the public delivered facts that are indisputable. Here are the really important points.
- There is no national construction standard for smart meters. This is still evolving and will not be prepared for some years from now. The meters we buy now will probably not comply.
- These meters have a very simple computer board that could be easily hacked and made to run slower or faster or introduce viruses into the system. We already know how vulnerable our national energy system is to hacking.
- The City of Memphis is broke and there is no benefit for spending some $215 million dollars ++ and all the extra expense for the collection software and hardware. “MLGW places the cost of smart meters in Shelby County at $215 million,” Burton said. The Memphis activist pointed to the example of Chattanooga, which has 100% smart meter compliance. “The cost there was estimated to be $226 million. They have 170,000 customers. But what they need in Chattanooga now is $552 million. When you think that MLGW has more than a million customers, you can see that $215 million won’t cover it.
- The potential saving in meter readers could be achieved by a system of average billings for the great majority of customers who pay their bills on time. The MLGW does this now with average billings for some customers until an actual reading can be made. This average billing program could cut meters readings in half. However as pointed out in the Thursday meetings, the meter readers are the eyes and ears of the MLGW to prevent utility theft and abuse of equipment.
May 6, 2013
The question is not should we buy 60,000 smart meters. The real question is should we buy any smart meters.
There is one benefit of smart meters that the MLGW claims that is true and that is less meter readers. Regardless of what the MLGW says, The Federal government through TVA will be calling the shots and it is about control and your loss of freedoms. Nationally, smart meters have delivered unemployed meter readers and a deluge of meter data that utilities have no idea what to do with. They delivered little or nothing of value to the consumer. The smart meter also delivered a public increasingly soured on the smart grid, which came to be perceived as a “bait-and-switch” by industry and politicians.
It is a question of Trust. Do you trust the MLGW, the City Council, the Tennessee State Government, the TVA and finally the National (more…)
February 4, 2013
On November 20, 2012 City Councilman Morrison made a motion to increase the purchase of 6000 so called smart meters to 60,000. WOW!!
He got Yes votes from Boyd, Conrad, Flinn, Ford, Harris, Lowery, Strickland and himself. There were No votes from Fullilove, Brown and Collins. Hedgepeth did not cast a vote and Halbert was absent.
Has anyone really thought about Smart Meters, the cost, the savings (if any) and what is really their purpose?
Well here is my 2 cents worth.
It should be easy with modern technology to have a meter that broadcasts your readings and does away with the meter reader’s job. (more…)