We recently learned that Shelby County Commissioner Carpenter has been meeting in secret meetings with Memphis and Shelby County to develop a merger plan for the Shelby County Fire Department and the Memphis Fire Department. It seems that such meetings violate at least the spirit of the Open Meeting Act.
Lakeland City staff called to ask about the location and times of the meetings, but did not receive a response and none of the meetings apparently had a public agenda.
By contrast, Shelby County Mayor Ford appointed a Task Force on Fire Department Consolidation which includes representatives of each suburban city.
I understand Commissioner Carpenter will submit his secretly developed "merger plan" to the City of Memphis and Shelby County Commission in the near future.
I expect, like the "Single Source Funding" plan, it will include a substantial increase in costs for Shelby County residents (including Lakeland, whose residents pay Fire Fees to the Shelby County Fire Department) while reducing costs for the City of Memphis.
I expect if the Shelby County and City of Memphis "consolidation" were to be successful, we would see a lot of such "secret" plans that pop out and increase costs for the suburbs and the Shelby County area.
I understand that the secret developed plans will be presented to the City of Memphis and Shelby County in the near future. We encourage all Lakeland residents and Shelby County residents to monitor this (the City of Lakeland will post notices when the secretly developed plans are exposed) and attend the Shelby County meetings and /or contact all of the Shelby County delegation to protest the consideration of such important projects in secret without public input.
We also encourage Lakeland residents to let Shelby County Mayor Ford know you appreciate his efforts to include Lakeland and other suburbs in developing a plan for such an important project.