MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Taxpayers might have to cough up a million dollars for a pile of rocks. The cash would replace the historic cobblestones along the Mighty Mississippi.
The sign is up for the riverfront's Beale Street Landing project; the building is partially open now, with a planned restaurant opening next month. The big issue now concerns the cobblestones.
These are historic stones, believe it or not. They were used as ballast on steamboats in the 1800's.
Just like anything more than 150 years old, they're in pretty rough shape. Several years ago the Riverfront Development Corporation and Memphis City Council approved a plan to fix up these stones. Now, because of a change in Tennessee state funding policy, they need more dough to fix up the rocks.
According to Benny Lendermon with the Riverfront Development Corporation, "At the end of the day it may be close to a million dollars that's needed to finish the project."
That's the type of news that can make George Washington cry, especially when he's plastered on that dollar bill. Memphis is a city where money is on the endangered species list.
"I think we have to ask the question, do we need to do anything with the cobblestones?" noted Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland. "Do we need to spend millions of dollars fixing the cobblestones?"
The whole cobblestone project will end up costing $7 million bucks; $6 million comes from the feds, $1 million from you - that is, if the city council comes through with the dough.
"The vast majority of money is federal dollars and people can argue about the cobblestones, whether it was worth the spending of money or not. Many, including myself, think it's a very historic site that ought to be saved," said Lendermon.
Strickland countered, "We need to focus on the basics of government, which are roads, police and fire trucks. And then if we have any extra money leftover, we can look at these other projects, but cobblestones I can't imagine ranks very highly."
Everyone knows money is tight this year. And if the city doesn't come up with the dough for the cobblestones, everything will stay the same at the river - period.