MLGW President/CEO J.T. Young: “The objective is to mitigate annual customer bill impacts by spreading out proposed increases, while still achieving MLGW objectives.”

Memphis Light, Gas and Water President and CEO J.T. Young on Tuesday presented the Memphis City Council with a proposed budget and several rate plan proposals to gradually raise utility rates over the next few years.

MLGW’s initial proposal for a 2019 budget was voted down last year and the utility was asked to submit alternative rate proposals. The council will vote on the proposals Feb. 5.

The proposal voted down by the council in December would have raised residential bills an average of $16.77 a month, including electricity, water and gas. That would have been an average of 9.6 percent total increase in monthly residential bills.

MLGW has come up with three options since then that would raise the average residential bill between $16.92 and $18.59 a month over several years. The options, including hikes in gas, water and electric rates, are a multi-year, 9.6 to 10.5 percent rate increase.

Young said the rate hikes would be used to update the utility’s infrastructure.

“The objective is to mitigate annual customer bill impacts by spreading out proposed increases, while still achieving MLGW objectives,” Young said Tuesday, while presenting a slide show that elaborated on how the money would be spent.

MLGW’s mission is to “safely delivery services and sustain greater customer experience” for the citizens of Memphis, Young said.

“We believe our budget and rate plans are designed to help us do that,” he said. “The options that we’re bringing to you tonight are designed to mitigate any increases that may occur as we pursue our plan to improve our infrastructure.”

In other action

The council agreed to a resolution approving the use of $50 million in Memphis Center City Revenue Finance Corporation Pilot Extension Funds to construct parking facilities as a part of the Union Row Development.

Council member Martavius Jones said he was concerned that the amount is so large and that not enough consideration is being given to other potential projects.

“I’m just not satisfied that we’ve taken a look at this in a comprehensive manner,” considering other monies the council has approved for various projects, he said.

But Council member Frank Colvette said the amount of money matches the size of the project and that it will go a long way toward pushing Memphis forward.

“This is an investment in Memphis. This is an investment in that community,” Colvette said. “We have a bird in the hand, take it.”

Payments for ’68 sanitation workers

A council committee also approved a resolution to amend the 2019 operating budget in the amount of $268,800 to allow payments to three retirees who participated in the 1968 Sanitation Worker’s strike.

The three former sanitation workers granted the payments, totaling $70,000 apiece, join about 15 who were paid in 2017 and 2018 from a special grant established in 2017, according to Michael Burose, benefits supervisor for the city.

They are Sylvania Bowling, Joseph Bogard and Lenelle Walton.

Once they applied for the payment, the applicants had to be vetted, found to have worked for the city for 25 years and found qualified to receive the money.

“They have been very appreciative, very appreciative,” he said after the committee meeting. “I actually went to the First Tennessee Bank seminar and they asked a lot of questions about how the money could be utilized…That’s a large amount of money for an individual who is basically used to only receiving Social Security benefits.

“I’m just glad to be of assistance,” he said. “I feel good about it…Most of these people are in the 90’s. It’s a great benefit to them.”

Humanitarian Award

The City Council Humanitarian Award was presented posthumously to the family of Phil Trenary, former head of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, for his tireless efforts to promote Memphis. Trenary was gunned down after attending a downtown running event last September.

Trenary’s daughter, Brittney Trenary, accepted the award on behalf of her family. She said many in the council chamber had dealt with her father in business matters.

“I had the pleasure of observing him day to day and how he treated people who could give him nothing in return, and I can say he was a true gentleman,” she said.