County ready to work with city again on new fairgrounds plan

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The County Commission has held off on doing any deals with the city because the city owed the county $50 million. That all changed Wednesday.

The commission committee members were on hand to talk school budget numbers, but all everyone really wanted to hear was Superintendent Dorsey Hopson's two cents on this new settlement with the city.

Hopson said plainly, "If everyone walks out mad, then it's probably a good deal."

A judge ruled the city owed the county $57 million after withholding school money in 2008. Tuesday night, the City Council announced they'd struck a deal.

"I was very surprised," Stephanie Love said.

Love sits on the School Board. She and many others say this has been a long time coming.

Now the city will pay the county $28 million in cash, and several more million in services over the course of 15 years. But the school board still needs to sign off. Love said she plans to vote yes.

"I'm not happy with the amount of the settlement, but I'm glad that it's over so we can move forward," she said.

County Commissioner Davis Reaves, a former school board member, urged the commission to back off from any dealings with the city until this was solved.

Reaves told WREG, "This one was a big one for me."

Now he and other commissioners say it's time to take a closer look at this plan for the fairgrounds, or the tourism development zone as they call it, and come up with a concrete plan.

Commissioner Steve Basar said, "One of the biggest things is the ambiguity of it. Saying we are going to do this, it might be that. But once we get approval, it could be changed again."

Hopson says this settlement was the way to go because this money comes with a guarantee.

"Being able to have a consistent stream of income for our kids and our iZone is a win," he said.

Hopson said he plans to funnel the money from the city into the iZone program to help struggling students across Shelby County.

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