City leaders question MLGW’s 5-year-plan as new budget looms

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new year means a new budget for MLGW leaders to work with, and after the winter blast, people have even more questions about the 5-year plan to improve utilities and why they’re not seeing any of those improvements.

If you ask city council members about MLGW infrastructure, they’ll tell you they know previous administrations dropped the ball.

“At the time, the council just really didn’t push the vote through in time in an expeditious time,” said current council chairman Martavius Jones.

“You have every right to be frustrated. The government entity is a day late and a dollar short,” added city councilman Chase Carlisle.

Jones said he was part of the administration that eventually voted on and pushed through the 5-year MLGW infrastructure plan in 2019.

Since then, we’ve had three catastrophic weather events – the blizzard in 2021 that knocked out power and water for two weeks.

Then in February 2022, a year later, it was an ice storm that at one point caused more than 200,000 power outages across Shelby County.

And just before Christmas, it was snow and below-freezing temperatures that brought rolling blackouts, water outages, and over a dozen active leaks for customers.

Jones said between these weather events and supply chain issues caused by COVID, they’re behind on the 5-year plan.

“I would think we’re probably, probably haven’t even made the halfway point. Some things are just going to take some time to do so,” he said.

Councilman Chase Carlisle said instead of focusing on problems in the city – the focus was on other areas.

“Instead of us focusing on re-investment in the core, we got busy in the 80′s and 90′s of building out into the suburbs, storm, sewer, electric, all those things, we should’ve been focusing on reinvestment inside the core of the city and now we’re paying for those sins and citizens are suffering,” he said.

He said in 2019, the council approved increases to water and gas rates for MLGW customers.

The next year, in 2020, they approved an increase in the electric rate.

And in the summer of 2020, the council issued $1.2 billion in cash and bonds.

He said about $800 million of that is just for electric infrastructure upgrades.

Carlisle said with the new budget in effect, the council will be pushing MLGW leaders to speed up the plan.

“We absolutely can and should find ways to accelerate that plan and catch back up and even get ahead of schedule.”

Next week starts the new year of council meetings and council says you can expect to see presentations from MLGW at almost every council meeting.