(Memphis) The city of Memphis sent letters Wednesday to 50 vehicle inspection employees, informing them that their positions will be gone by July.
While several city council members said that they did not know this letter was being sent, the action was not a surprise, considering the council’s action several months ago to stop running inspection services.
The letter from the general services division states in part:
“You are receiving this letter to notify you of the planned abolishment of your position with the City of Memphis, June 30, 2013, due to the Aug. 21, 2012 council action.
The Human Resources Division will be setting up a meeting with all impacted employees to explain pertinent information regarding the abolishment of your positions and next steps.”
Last August, the City of Memphis asked Shelby County to start funding the inspections at a cost of 2.8 million dollars a year.
In January, the county asked the state to take over the inspections in order to not have to spend that money.
That process is in the works and could start by July.
Right now, the EPA requires people in Memphis to have inspections because of ozone pollution.
Councilman Lee Harris said those affected by layoffs include 37 full-time and 13 part-time employees.
“It’s always a very tough, tough thing to do. But at least we hope the severance package will soften the blow just a little bit,” Harris said.
Harris has been working on a severance package for the laid off employees, that will include a modest payment and health benefits covering several pay periods after their last day. They will also receive job placement assistance.
When the city council opted not to continue funding vehicle inspections, they hoped Shelby County government could pick up the services.
But after exploring options, county officials decided they could not afford to run the services either. In this case, the state of Tennessee would likely take over.
The state already runs inspections in other counties. In some places, there are private garages designated as places of inspection.
It is unclear whether the state will take over the city’s existing inspection stations.
“There is no promise on the part of the state that they’re going to hire these folks back. In fact, we don’t anticipate that they will. So these folks will be in limbo,” Harris said.
Next week, state, county and city leaders will meet to discuss how operations will run in the future.
It is likely that under state operations, all Shelby County drivers would need to pay about $10 to have each car inspected.
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