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City council questions mall renovation project

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Accusations flew at the Memphis City Council meeting Tuesday over the use of your tax dollars when it comes to the Southbrook Mall renovation project. Accusations flew at the Memphis City Council meeting Tuesday over the use of your tax dollars when it comes to the Southbrook Mall renovation project.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Accusations flew at the Memphis City Council meeting Tuesday over the use of your tax dollars when it comes to the Southbrook Mall renovation project.

City council members questioned why it took city attorneys two years to realize funding for the mall was coming from the wrong pot of city money.

Southbrook Mall is located on the 1200 block of East Shelby Drive in Whitehaven.

"The majority of the council said we're going to do this little 'black' project," said Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove.

The council also questioned whether the city and fellow council members held secret meetings about the renovation project that ultimately put that project on hold.

"I know the mayor was involved in whatever those meetings were," said Councilwoman Wanda Halbert.

Councilman Harold Collins says he and the mayor were invited to Southbrook Mall by investors to openly talk about the project, but he says there was never a back-room meeting.

Council members accused the city of selectively picking which projects to fund.

"Electrolux, which benefited off of the funding from the port commission with capital dollars from the city, One Commerce Square, Chisca Hotel," Halbert listed off projects.

"I just get the feeling that you all don't want to do this little black project for $1.5 million, but we can do these other projects," said Fullilove.

"In the other projects, we've identified public purposes," explained Memphis Chief Administrative Officer George Little. "Maybe it's streets, maybe it's sidewalks."

The Whitehaven Economic Development Corporation questioned the racial overtones.

"I keep hearing this black-white scenario. Whitehaven is 98 percent African-American, ladies and gentlemen," said Chuck Strong, Whitehaven Economic Development Corporation. "There are a lot of African-American businesses that don't run down here and get money free."

Whitehaven is Councilman Collins' district.

He says he fully supports the project and is confident they will find the funding somehow.

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