Council Considers Quick Annex Of Grays Creek

On January 30, 2012, in News 2012, by Mark Norris

By Bill Dries, MemphisDailyNews.com
January 30, 2012

Memphis City Council members will meet Tuesday, Jan. 31, to consider a fast track annexation of the Gray’s Creek area of Cordova.

The 4:30 p.m. committee session at City Hall is a reaction to a new bill introduced in Nashville by two Shelby County legislators that would take a swath of land in southeast Shelby County bordering Fayette County out of the city of Memphis annexation reserve area.

The bill, first filed Thursday by Collierville Republicans Curry Todd and Mark Norris – of the house and senate, respectively, is the latest legislative proposal that would have a dramatic impact on the move by leaders of the suburban towns and cities to form their own school districts.

A summary of the bill provides only general detail about the intent of the legislation saying it “moves a specified area of land located in Shelby County near the southeastern county line from the area reserved for annexation by Memphis to the planned growth area of the county.”

All five of the plans for municipal school districts built around Shelby County’s suburban towns and cities include some use of the city of Memphis annexation reserve areas or the unincorporated rural areas. Students in those areas would attend the individual school districts as outlined in reports released earlier this month by Southern Educational Strategies LLC, a consulting firm hired by all six of Shelby County’s suburban municipalities individually.

The report on a Millington municipal school district has not been released yet.

In a joint written statement issued Monday evening, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Memphis City Council chairman Bill Morrison said they were “deeply troubled” by the bill and other proposals that “would stifle Memphis’ ability to grow.”

The growth plan in which the city of Memphis put the Gray’s Creek area in its “reserve” was agreed upon by all of the municipalities under terms of the 1998 state law.

Wharton and Morrison noted that other municipalities in the state had used the growth plans mandated by the law recently “without argument or interference – to annex their reserve areas.”

“It’s a move that smacks of racism, classism and schoolyard bullying,” Morrison and Wharton wrote of the Norris-Todd bill. “This is a continued all-out assault on Memphis and its right to govern itself. … If need be, we will meet this challenge in court.”

Annexing Gray’s Creek or any other area requires the passage of an ordinance on three separate readings. The council could call a special meeting of the body with 48 hours notice. The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 7.

Earlier this month, Todd proposed a bill that would have required county school system buildings in the footprints of the proposed municipal school districts to be transferred at no cost to the new school systems should they be formed.

He has since put that legislation on hold. Norris has said he won’t sponsor a companion bill on that measure for now to give the local schools merger effort time to come up with a policy that addresses how school properties would be transferred.

Norris and Todd were sponsors of the Norris-Todd bill passed by the Tennessee legislature in 2011 that set the procedure and terms for local schools consolidation in Shelby County.

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