City of Memphis says no more new sewer lines to unincorporated areas of Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis says it spends millions of dollars a year on 3,200 miles of sewer lines. About 300 miles or so are unincorporated, outside Memphis and Shelby County limits.

The city put sewer lines in the area planning to annex eventually. That never happened.

"We had invested $6 million and at some point we were contemplating spending $12 million," says Robert Knecht, the public works director with the City of Memphis.

The City says that's money that could go back to projects inside the city limits.

"Let's make sure we can serve our growth first because we are experiencing tremendous growth. We are expecting more growth, and having the necessary sewer lines is important to be able to support that," says Knecht.

It means county leaders will have to come up with a plan to offer service to those unincorporated areas when new residents and businesses move in.

It worries county commissioner Heidi Shafer.

"It will take the county three to five years to build a sewer treatment plant. Anybody not in city limits or in a municipality that has capacity will not be able to build office buildings," says Shafer.

City Councilman Martavius Jones says the city getting nothing in return for the million it doles out has always been a concern.

"Memphis tax dollars have subsidized the growth of Shelby County, period. We have done that to the tune that we don't have the resources to support great landmasses," says Jones.

The City says it's about putting Memphis first, and this is one of the things not benefiting the city.

There is still plenty of debate on this one; the city could make some concession. County Commissioner Heidi Shafer says it could end up in court.

Some are concerned the sewer changes will force developers to places like Fayette and DeSoto counties and out of Shelby County.

Heidi Shafer says before the city of Memphis pulls out, there needs to be a transition plan of three to five years.