published Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

City Council delays vote on nightclub sprinkler ordinance another week


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

City Council meeting - 04/19/2011

BY THE NUMBERS

* $14.6 million: Total estimated loss of gross revenue within the city if 10 night clubs shut down.

* $1.8 million: Estimated amount of loss of state and local tax dollars if 10 night clubs closed.

* $357,100: Estimated loss in federal tax dollars if 10 clubs within the city shut down.

Source: Chattanooga attorney Jerry Tidwell

The Chattanooga City Council voted 5-3 Tuesday night to defer a vote for a week on a controversial ordinance requiring nightclub owners to install sprinkler systems within two years.

Chattanooga attorney Jerry Tidwell, who is representing a consortium of nightclub owners, said he requested the week to gather more information for an economic impact study he is conducting.

He said the way the ordinance is written right now is a detriment on nightclub owners’ pocketbooks.

“You’re killing a flea with a sledgehammer,” he said.

Councilwomen Carol Berz, Sally Robinson and Deborah Scott all voted against the deferral. The ordinance has been contentious for months with the city fire marshal requesting that all nightclubs within the city that offer entertainment venues put in the sprinklers.

But business owners say the sprinklers are too costly and the cost alone may run them out of business.

“This is an unfunded mandate on businesses, and I can’t go along with this,” said City Councilman Jack Benson.

Berz disagreed.

“Everything we do is an unfunded mandate,” she said. “We tell people to do things and not pay for it.”

Tidwell said he had partially come up with an economic impact study. He said based upon his findings, if 10 nightclubs closed their doors that would mean a loss of almost $15 million in revenue within the city. That would mean about $1.8 million of lost state and local taxes and $357,000 in federal taxes, he said.

“If 20 businesses close, double that,” Tidwell said.

Homeless health care center

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said a project to relocate the Homeless Health Care Center on 11th Street has been put on hold as the county reviews its budget in “entirety.”

“We’ve got millions of dollars to make up and we’re short,” Coppinger said.

The City Council was set to vote on a resolution next week allowing the county to perform environmental tests at the Farmer’s Market property, which the city owns, and is the proposed health care center.

Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, told council members that the county sent an email asking for it to be taken off the agenda. He said he did not know the reason.

Coppinger said he does not see going back on the agenda anytime soon.

“At this time, there’s no indication it will be on the agenda in the near future,” he said.

City officials said the health care center is being paid for in $2.7 million in federal grants. Coppinger said “not all of it” is grants.

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