Gov. Haslam Attends Ceremonial Signings, Ignores Severe Weather Damage in Memphis

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As Governor Bill Haslam sets out next Monday on cross-state IMPROVE Act Bill Signing Ceremonies, he has not yet seen the damage himself from the severe weather that hit Memphis and surrounding Shelby County last Saturday night.  And, he has no plans to travel there this week, according to a report from Fox 13 Memphis.

Meanwhile, Governor Haslam has announced IMPROVE Act Bill Signing Ceremonies to be held Monday, June 5 in each of Tennessee’s three grand divisions.

As of Thursday morning, the fifth day after the storm, Memphis Light Gas and Water Division (MLGW)  power outage map indicates that over 32,000 customers are still impacted by power outages, down from a peak of 188,000.  While power has been restored to the majority of customers, full restoration could take more than a week for the remaining customers as progress slows dealing with smaller outages.

The storm has been described by MLGW as the “third worst storm in the area’s history.”

An email dated May 31 from the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) Executive Director, David Connor, attached an invitation on Governor Haslam’s letterhead that included the details of the ceremonies:  10:15 a.m. in Hamilton County, 1 p.m. in Nashville/Davidson County and 3 p.m. in Union City/Obion County.

TCSA is an umbrella organization of three affiliate associations, the Association of County Mayors, the Tennessee County Commissioners Association and the Tennessee County Highway Officials Association.  All four are registered lobbying groups, funded by annual dues paid with taxpayer dollars and representing more than 1,800 elected and appointed officials of the executive and legislative branches of county government.

The cover email from TCSA about the IMPROVE Act signing ceremonies stated, “Your support of this initiative was crucial to its passage.”

Governor Haslam held another series of cross-state bill signing ceremonies for the Tennessee Reconnect Act, which, in addition to Morristown and Smyrna, put him in Memphis at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Public Library on May 24.

Demonstrating just how devastating the storm damage was to just the Memphis area of Shelby County, a Facebook post late Wednesday by City of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland stated, “We have determined our preliminary estimate of City of Memphis costs to the storm:  $9,974,989.  We’ve reported this to the county, which is by law the coordinating agency with TEMA.  The threshold to qualify for FEMA disaster assistance is $9.07 million, so our costs alone pass that.”  There was no reference to the estimated damages for Shelby County.

The clean-up and restoration work for Memphis is far from done, as the MLGW reported and Memphis Mayor Strickland’s post continued, “Our Public Works crews have now cleared 312 reports of trees in streets, leaving 199 more to go.”

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