Mayor Karl Dean’s administration said it has reached a “tentative agreement” with officials from Davidson County’s satellite cities that preserves “the heart and soul of what makes Metro great.”
The agreement was announced in a memo to Metro Council members Friday afternoon. It comes several weeks after the emergence of state legislation pushed by a handful of the smaller cities within Davidson County that would have allowed such towns to provide more of their own government services. If passed, the bill would have contradicted the Metro Charter, and Dean has said it would “gut” the Metro system of government.
In its letter Friday, the administration outlined an agreement that it said is aimed at preserving “the essence of the Metro charter” while addressing some of the concerns raised by satellite city officials.
“The Administration believes that a good balance has been struck,” writes Metro Law Director Saul Solomon in the memo. “The heart and soul of what makes Metro great — smaller, efficient government and a spirit of unity among our citizens — has been preserved, while at the same time additional flexibility has been provided for the Smaller Cities to perform certain functions important to them.”
Solomon goes on to say that the administration anticipates that the current state legislation regarding the matter “will not be taken up by the General Assembly in the near future.”
The agreement, as outlined in the administration memo, is for four years, and can be extended for additional four-year terms if there is no objection. The agreement would be terminated if state legislation similar to the recently proposed bill were passed by the state legislature.
The existing Metro charter allows satellite cities to provide the services they were providing when Metro government officially formed in April 1963. Under the new deal, they would be allowed to add certain services.
While some of the satellite cities currently have municipal courts, for example, the agreement allows any city to establish such a court. The deal would also allow any city to own and operate a park, and to issue business licenses. Other terms of the agreement pertain to codes, franchise fees for the use of public rights of ways, and stormwater services, and in several cases simply affirm the current arrangement.
The agreement does state that Metro “will consider” amending part of the Metro code “to allow a reduced rate for a Smaller City to employ extra-duty police officers.”
Oak Hill Mayor Austin McMullen called it a “reasonable agreement.”
“It was a pleasure working alongside Forest Hills Mayor Bill Coke and Belle Meade Mayor Jim Hunt throughout this process. Speaker Harwell and Mayor Dean personally played pivotal roles in helping us reach this compromise, so we want to thank them and their staffs for working with us to resolve these issues,” said McMullen. “We also want to thank the sponsors of the legislation, including Rep. Joe Carr, who helped bring this issue to the forefront and for their understanding and advocacy for the needs of smaller communities.”
The agreement will require approval by the Metro Council, as well as the boards or commissions of the satellite cities.