Council votes for blight database, fumes over emissions - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Council votes for blight database, fumes over emissions

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

The Memphis City Council, fed up with blight and the ongoing emissions testing drama, discussed both at Tuesday evening's meeting.
The city council is not happy with the way things are unfolding with emissions testing, saying its unfair how the city is being treated by the county and the state.

The city is planning on getting out of the emissions testing business by the end of June. The idea was to take the burden off Memphis alone, and have Shelby County participate in emissions testing. This is because the Environmental Protection Agency looks at the entire region, not just the city, when it comes to pollution standards.
But a deal made in March between the county and the state would continue to have just Memphians go through testing, plus start charging a $10 fee. Unsatisfied with how this all played out politically, some on the council are now considering back tracking on giving up emissions testing in favor of continuing testing, and requiring anyone who regularly drives in Memphis to go through emissions testing, regardless of if they live in the city or not.

"We ought to be fired," said Councilman Harold Collins. "If we go back to our districts and tell the people that we've allowed (Shelby County) Mayor (Mark) Luttrell and the State of Tennessee and all these other deal cutters to hold Memphis hostage for another two years."

No motion was made to officially go that route, but councilmen were armed with a legal opinion that they could force non-Memphians to go through emissions testing, and we could see a formal resolution proposed soon.

The city council also tackled a blight initiative. Council voted in favor of a new blighted properties database.  Mayor A C Wharton pushed this database saying it will help the city find and go after absent property owners who don't pay taxes and don't keep up the home.

The city ends up paying to maintain these properties costing millions every year. The way it works is, when a code enforcement officer declares that a property has been abandoned, the city will use all records available to find the owner. Then the owner will be served legal documents that say either pay the back taxes or pay $200 to register on the database.

A fine of $50 a day will be assessed for those who purposely avoid those option. Mayor Wharton says this will generate some income for the city while going after the bad guys, he says this is not for homeowners who have fallen on hard times.

"What we're going after here are the bad folks," he said. "These are the folks who want to invest some money, trying to get a quick return, it goes bad, they say to heck with it, let the city take care of it. This is not about mom or dad or grandma or disabled person."

The ordinance goes into effect immediately.

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