Sunday, August 10, 1997

City Tries to Save Riverfront Project; Ford Jr. Says Federal Funding Unlikely

Commercial Appeal
by Mary Powers

Memphis hopes to save an ambitious riverfront development plan even if the new federal budget doesn't include the $3.5 million startup money, a city official said Saturday.

"There is a chance of getting language to authorize the Corps of Engineers to begin designing the project," said Benny Lendermon, the city's public works director.

"We have talked to the corps numerous times and they have been very supportive of the project."

Such authorization would help ensure future federal funding and avoid significant project delays.

"We are working the Senate side hard" on clearance to begin designing the project, Lendermon said.

Mayor Willie Herenton outlined plans last September to transform the Memphis Harbor into a recreational lake. The project would cost an estimated $43.2 million, $20 million of which city officials envisioned would be federal funds.

It was hoped the federal budget being finalized in Washington would include $3.5 million to begin work.

It doesn't.

U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Memphis) and Lendermon said Saturday there is little chance the city's funding would be included in compromise federal appropriations now being finalized.

On Saturday, Ford criticized Herenton's leadership and failure to lobby in support of the city's request.

"Every time City Hall makes a mistake they point the blame at someone else," he said.

Ford spoke after a prayer breakfast that attracted about 900 people to the Memphis Marriott, including Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout. Rout said the county and Ford have a good working relationship.

Herenton didn't attend Saturday's event, and Carey Hoffman, his spokesman, said he wouldn't comment on Ford's remarks.

Herenton and Ford have clashed before, most recently about a summer youth jobs program. City Council member Myron Lowery said he hopes this latest problem will prompt both sides to improve communications.

On Saturday, Ford reiterated that city officials didn't provide the project information his office requested, including a development plan and possible environmental impact. That's why Ford didn't request the appropriation until July 30, several days after the House subcommittee deadline had passed for submitting such requests.

Lendermon said city officials had submitted such information and weren't told that Ford was awaiting additional data.

The same funding request was submitted by Tennessee Sens. Fred Thompson and Bill Frist, both Republicans. It wasn't included in Senate appropriations, which Lendermon said city officials had expected.

Copyright (c) 1997 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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