A plan to compensate operators of car washes and plant nurseries forced to close during May’s flooding is facing questions from some Metro Council members who worry it could open the door for other businesses to seek financial assistance down the road.
The bill, sponsored by At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, Councilwoman Emily Evans and a handful of others, went before the council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday where the body split its vote 4-4. At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine, the committee’s chair, abstained from voting.
The ordinance is now scheduled to go before the council on second reading at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Companies that would benefit from the plan are car washes and plant nurseries that were forced to temporarily shut down for the entire month of May when Nashville was under a mandatory water-conservation order while one of the city’s water treatment plants wasn’t operating. Financial aid would come in the form of credits on a company’s monthly water bill.
“This is one segment of business that we locked out of their business and told them you can’t go in and use it,” Tygard said. “Whether that was the right thing or the wrong thing, it happened. This is a way, not for cash payments, not through taxpayer money, but through credits on future water bills to help small businesses recover from this disaster.”
Under the proposal, no companies would receive compensation greater than $30,000. If the value exceeded $5,000 then a $5,000 credit would be applied on a monthly basis, for up to six months, if necessary. Thirty-five companies would qualify for the credit, which would take approximately $200,000 from Metro’s general fund. To qualify, businesses would need to prove they’ve taken no insurance money to counteract their losses.
Metro Department of Law Director Sue Cain said the city isn’t legally responsible to reimburse companies Metro ordered to close. According, a few council members asked where the city should draw the line.
“I could just see a lot of things coming up,” said Councilman Jim Forkum, who voted against the bill. “If the sun doesn’t shine for a month, do we reimburse solar companies for their loss of power? It’s very similar.”
• The council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a bill that would redirect a portion of revenue collected from the city’s hotel taxes to repair flood-related damages to Gaylord Opryland’s Grand Ole Opry House.
The bill will go before the council tonight on second reading.
The ordinance addresses a portion of the city’s hotel tax the council had already earmarked to Gaylord in 2007. Originally, the company was to use the funds for the expansion of its convention center, but the project is currently on hold.
The hotel tax will generate an estimated $1.2 million per year over the next 15 years to help pay for the $20 million in damages to the company’s Opry House.