Saturday, May 31, 2008

Halbert: What is the Master Plan?

At the recent CIP budget hearings, Councilwoman Wanda Halbert asked a variety questions, beginning with: What exactly is the Master Plan?

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 10-minute discussion (1.8 MB MP3). My transcription of the discussion follows below.
HALBERT: I have a couple of general questions. I am still trying to figure out, I haven’t had an opportunity to really study the RDC and exactly what all it entails. Is this the original Master Plan that you all came up with when you created this concept?

LENDERMON: This was one of the projects included out of the original Master Plan.

HALBERT: This book in front of me…

LENDERMON: No, no this book was actually was just…we printed this book yesterday [LAUGHTER] This book is just pictures depicting the projects included in this years Capital Improvements Program and all these issues frankly were included in the Master Plan. It is just a very small portion of it.

HALBERT: Now I’m not sure, I may be the only person…do we have a copy of whatever the Master Plan is? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I’m getting so many documents, I can’t figure…are we adding to the plan? Or what are we doing?

LENDERMON: No…

HALBERT: I just don’t know what this is…

[RDC CHAIRMAN GREG] DUCKETT: And I’m not sure if we have provided to all the new members of the Council a copy of the Master Plan. I don’t know if we’ve done that. If we haven’t, we will get you a copy of it. But these are, other than the major maintenance, are components of the initial Master Plan that was developed as part of the RDC effort. So these are individual projects that are referenced within the Master Plan.

HALBERT: For me…it’s like Councilman Flinn said, I’ve seen several documents, but I’m not sure exactly what RDC is, and I need to get a better understanding of that, and I’m not even sure why it was created and what the plan…I mean how long do we plan on it being here?

VOICE: Fifty years, at least.

STRICKLAND: The Master plan was a fifty year plan, wasn’t it?

DUCKETT: Yes but I was confused…When you say “it being here” are you referring to the Master Plan or are you referring to the RDC?

HALBERT: Master Plan…RDC…I mean it’s one and the same…A fifty-year plan?

[CROSSTALK AND LAUGHTER]

DUCKETT: Well the Master Plan is a long-term plan. Because in order to accomplish many of the things that are outlined in the Master Plan just from a sheer funding perspective, it will take several; years to amass the resources to build it.

Now in terms of RDC’s existence, I guess the only way I can answer that is, what is the current contract with the City of Memphis. [CROSSTALK] It’s a contractual relationship that is renewed in five-year increments. Or at least is HAS been renewed on five year [intervals?].

HALBERT: Now…Councilman Ware talked about the private opportunity to be able to get things done [versus?] government. And I noticed Mr. Sherman, I was wanting to know specifically why is it that government costs so much more or the perception is that it costs so much more to get projects like this done through government versus private industry.

BOYD: There are a lot of restrictions on government,

[???]

SHERMAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. In the private industry typically, you know, private corporations or the individual that’s building the facility, they would typically go to contract, after they’ve taken bids, within 30 days. Our process, in city government, is at least 120 days. And as I mentioned I think last week, that 120 days is costing us a great deal of money as inflation and oil prices put everything in flux on pricing. There has been a time last year; steel venders were only holding their prices for less than 24 hours. Yet we ask our vendors to hold their prices absolute for 120 days. So, they have to build in inflation, because they know it will take that long for us to go through the establish checks and balances, to go through, appropriately, the City government procedures. So that is one of the factors.

It takes us about 60 to 70 days to get a design contract through the City’s system to even start design. As we go through that design there is a period that we come to City Council to present a continuing resolution to your body, to keep you apprised of the status of the project, and that stops the project for almost eight weeks while we bring those documents to you for approval and we wait for the minutes to be approved through the full Council sessions.

So some of those hurdles private industry does not have to face. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it means it’s just a fact of doing business with government.

HALBERT: Is there a better way that we can do it, as government? I mean we can do our part so that we don’t have to deal with this big issue, because this is going to be an ongoing issue, if we’re not going to [inaudible].

SHERMAN: There is better ways, and I think that by pulling the appropriate divisions together and Council and talking about that in the right setting, I think we can find some ways to appropriately save time and still have the appropriate checks and balances that the Finance Division needs, and the Council needs, and Engineering would accomplish our goals to move the process forward.

BOYD: If you will, try to remind Councilwoman Halbert and myself and we’ll try to arrange a meeting so we can discuss these things and maybe some other interested people…

HALBERT: Two very quick things. One is a comment. I know we were kind of joking a little bit about the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the South Main [Association], but we did have an issue to come up in our meeting last night, where it appeared the South Main Association was left out of some communications or something. So, is there any particular reason why they’re not included in the presentations or discussions?

LENDERMON: We’ve made presentations to them before just like anybody, just like Harbortown Association. I mean, we normally meet with them at their request, more than we involving them. We do have…our board does include whatever the current president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association as an ex officio member of our board…assuming the Downtown Neighborhood Association includes both Harbortown, South Main, and the rest of downtown.

BOYD: Did you also have some required open meetings to the public?

LENDERMON: Absolutely. I mean when there’s a public meeting, we send out notices to everyone. But it depends on what you’re specifically talking about. Like for instance the Law School Project. It really hasn’t had much public visibility yet because it doesn’t really exist until you as a body decide you want to fund it. So we aren’t yet having any formalized meetings that we’re spending money on because it doesn’t exist as a project yet. But once it does, we will.

HALBERT: Well I think that the reason that I’m asking that is when we live in different neighborhoods throughout the city, as certain neighborhood groups are informed about different things and others are not, then… You’ve got to be inclusive, because it’s not real good to make that assumption that the next person is telling the next person. It appears that you all would want to be more inclusive, because when it comes to us, if people are starting to object to issues that are going on, particulars of projects, and they tell us that they weren’t even notified, then therein lies a problem because that’s’ a part of a process that is established through OPD, for when we make approval. So that would probably be a good thing to include all of them on the projects.

And then my final question is, earlier you said something about Beale Street would be “absorbed into the contract?” When you say that, is that not a part of the Master Plan, or…

LENDERMON: No, I was trying to answer the question, is there any additional cost to the City for the operation of this Beale Street Landing, once it’s completed. And what the statement was, what we stated from the very beginning was, we will operate that within the existing dollars the City is giving us now, hoping to make enough revenue off of the little restaurant and whatever else is there to come close to breaking even.

HALBERT: If we could get that Master plan, I’m just, I’m a little…I need to figure out exactly what this concept really is all about. Thank you.

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