New Shelby County Commission holds first meeting of new term

New Shelby County Commission holds first meeting of new term

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Commission kicked off its new term just days after commissioners were sworn in.

As evident by the empty wall of portraits outside the committee room, it's a new chapter for the Shelby County Commission.

Wednesday, the commission held its first committee meetings of the new term.

Tami Sawyer is one of eight new members and three women who've joined the commission.

"It was a great to jump in, get my feet wet and see how the process goes," Sawyer said.

That process started easy enough.

Commissioners approved money for several charities and heard from Mayor Lee Harris, who introduced his new chief administrative officer Patrice Thomas.

But more controversial issues are on the horizon, including a possible debate over retirement benefits for county employees.

"The fiscal '20 budget is going to be starting off in a bit of a hole," said Harvey Kennedy, former chief administrative officer.

Despite warnings it could cost $10 million a year, the previous commission approved a resolution to lower the eligibility requirements for life and health insurance from 15 years to eight years.

Also, 2,500 additional county employees would receive benefits under the plan, including commissioners who served two terms.

Before he left office, former Mayor Mark Luttrell vetoed it.

Commissioner Mark Billingsley, who voted against it, said he doesn't think the new commission will rush to override that veto.

"Our new commissioners have only been in office for literally only a few days," Billingsley said. "So for them to try to resurrect that without a whole lot of information, I don't see this group doing that."

Mayor Harris said the money could be spent elsewhere.

"I don't think the new commission should spend $6 million to $10 million on life insurance benefits right now," Mayor Harris said. "I think we probably need more study on that issue. Remember, $10 million is the amount of money MATA asked for to stop the cuts that are coming down the pike."

The commission has until the end of the month to override that veto.

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