Urban blight of one kind or another is suddenly very much on the agenda of local politics. In the last few days, two significant independent initiatives have issued from office-holders on the city council or county commission, and Shelby County government itself is now involved in an overall program entitled “Clean Green Shelby.”
“A meeting on the rat problem in Memphis” has been called by Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter and Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland for the Memphis Botanic Gardens this Thursday night, April 29.
And county commissioner Steve Mulroy held a press conference Sunday on the site of the once thriving, now deserted and dilapidated Marina Cove apartment complex on Winchester Ave. in Hickory Hill, calling for its immediate demolition.
He said his pest control service-person had given the name of “Rat City” to the upscale Poplar corridor — although he acknowledged that other areas of the city had perhaps even more serious rat problems.
Strickland said he had teamed up with Carpenter to seek a solution to the problem because the commissioner represented essentially the same geographic area and because “the county is actually in charge of rat abatement.”
The councilman said this week’s meeting was meant to inform the community of activity over the past 9 months of an ad hoc committee formed by himself and Carpenter, who chairs it, and to solicit community reaction.
“Currently, all of us pay 75 cents a month for vector control on our MLGW bill,” Strickland said. “But the Health Department is very clear that they are not exterminators.” Any more serious action would involve additional costs and would require action by the council and/or commission.
Those costs could ultimately be recovered from the property’s absentee owners in California, said Mulroy, who proposed a lawsuit to force the property into receivership.
Such action was needed, Mulroy said, because nothing thus far had resulted from “four different administrative or [previous] legal actions taken against this project,” involving something like 75 court appearance in the last six years.” The absentee owners are meanwhile using the property for a tax write-off, he said.
Flanked by area residents Jesse Carey and James Casey at Sunday’s press conference, Mulroy noted that the project’s last residents were moved out of Marina Cover six years ago when the Health Department closed it down.
At present, debris of all kinds litters the grounds and the interiors of the housing units, which have been stripped of appliances, cooper wiring and tubing.
“We’ve got to get this 500-pound elephant out of our neighborhood,” said Casey, who argued that it held back potential economic progress in the entire Hickory Hill area. He and Mulroy suggested that a non-profit organization could be formed to plan redevelopment of the grounds.
The project will focus on five areas:
the “Wolf River Brownfields Assessment Program,” which would avail itself of $400,000 in federal funds to develop several blighted areas along the Wolf River basin in accordance with green concepts;
recycling, involving a pilot program employing county corrections inmates; air quality, focusing on an immediate inventory of greenhouse gases;
environmental infrastructure, involving concerted between the county’s municipal mayors to reduce pollution from waste water treatment plans;
ground water, undertaking a long-range undertaking, in concert with federal agencies and the University of Memphis to address “long-term protection and sustainability of the Memphis Sands Aquifer.”
“On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we should all vow to take this opportunity to build on the progress of the past 40 years,” Ford said.