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Memphis City Council delays decisions on residency requirements

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- On Tuesday City Council members delayed making a decision on if an ordinance requiring new city workers to live within the city of Memphis. The issue could eventually go before voters.

"I just beg you, please do not do this," pleaded Interim Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings to a City Council committee Tuesday.

In a long and at times emotional debate, Rallings told City Council members in a committee he's having a hard enough time as it is recruiting and retaining officers.

"Many of you are just coming in. I'm not new to coming in. I've dealt with it from '08 until now," he said.

"I want to make data driven decisions," explained Councilman Martavius Jones.

Jones is sponsoring the resolution that would potentially let voters decide if city workers need to live in city limits. He said the city needs to reap the benefits of employee taxes, which in the end pay the salaries and benefits of workers. At the committee meeting Tuesday he was met not only with disagreement from the police department but fire as well.

"The facts have shown for years and years that when you do this it's a detriment to the city," explained Thomas Malone, president of the Memphis Firefighters Union.

Fire Director Gina Sweat said the elephant in the room is why don't employees want to live in the city, and she suggested incentives like stipends and down payments.

"But one of the programs we're working on, we're calling it 'Grow Your Own,' and this is a program where we're introducing fire management services dual-enrollment curriculum into the school system, the Shelby County school system," explained Sweat.

Jones, however, emphatically said incentives require money.

"Incentives are not free! Somebody has to pay for it! Incentives are not free!"

Jones is now asking the city's HR department to look at when there was a residency requirement, if the employees who left were from the county or the city. He said depending on what those results are could determine if he continues to push forward with the resolution.