Memphis riverfront money in state budget may go to Germantown instead

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Senate’s current budget proposal is causing controversy in Memphis. It would take $2.5 million from a Tom Lee Park improvement project and use it to fund an amphitheater for the Germantown Performing Arts Center.

Gov. Bill Lee’s budget and the House’s budget give Tom Lee Park $10 million, but the Senate’s proposal takes it down to $7.5 million after the redirect to Germantown.

Memphis City Councilman Frank Colvett Jr. says the park needs this money. It would pay for things like better drainage and more shade, making festivals like Memphis in May a better experience.

“Tom Lee Park is vitally important to the city and the county and everyone,” he says, “Tom Lee is such a huge draw, such a huge attraction.”

Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey represents Germantown. We called him and left a message asking about the transfer in funds but, as of the time of this writing, he has not gotten back to us.

The Senate has to finalize its proposal before it and the House get together to reconcile their differences and produce a joint budget. Democratic state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, who represents Memphis, hopes Tom Lee Park ends up with the full $10 million.

“I’m hoping that if it doesn’t work out this year it’s something that we can come back and fight for next year,” she says.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership, which is behind Tom Lee’s renovation, had no comment.

Paul Crutcher, like other Memphians we talked with, says the Bluff City needs every dollar it can get.

“Really it’s unfair,” he says, “We need it. We don’t need to export money to Germantown.”

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