published Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Trustee proposes liens on tardy hotels

Hamilton County is employing a new strategy to deal with hotels and motels that are behind on paying occupancy taxes, Trustee Bill Hullander told the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club on Monday.

Hullander said the county will place liens on hotels and motels that fall three months behind on their payments.

The county has sued the owners of the Comfort Suites on Williams Street for failing to pay $174,756 in hotel-motel taxes since 2008. Other hotels found to be behind in their taxes include the Delta Queen and the Town & Country Inn.

A recent county audit report found that the trustee’s office did not have a documented collection procedure for tracking the unpaid hotel and motel taxes. In his response, Hullander noted that the issues arose under the previous trustee, Carl Levi.

“I concur with the auditors’ recommendation and will develop standardized procedures for tracking and collecting delinquent hotel/motel occupancy taxes,” Hullander wrote.

Courthouse flags going to troops

Local soldiers serving in the Middle East will be sent a flag that has flown for a week over the Hamilton County Courthouse.

In a news release, County Mayor Jim Coppinger’s office said a flag is being flown from March 21-28 to honor Tennessee National Guard troops who are stationed in Iraq and Kuwait.

On Monday, Coppinger will present the flag to Lt. Col. Kevin Stewart, a National Guard Rear Detachment Commander of the 230th Sustainment Brigade stationed at the Holtzclaw Armory. From there, the flag will be sent to 309 deployed troops. The soldiers’ family members plan to be at that ceremony, according to the mayor’s office.

The presentation will take place at the Hamilton County Courthouse in conference room 106.

Musical chairs in city council

The Chattanooga City Council voted 5-3 Tuesday to move its committee meetings back to the J.B. Collins conference room from the main council chamber.

The city fire marshal ordered the meetings out of the conference room almost a month ago because there were too many people packed in the room for safety.

Council members agreed Tuesday to move back to the conference room for committee meetings but limit the number of people in the room.

Council members Jack Benson, Manny Rico and Deborah Scott voted against the move.

Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, on Tuesday proposed providing a video and audio feed from the conference room to the main chamber so people waiting for committee hearings can keep up.

Scott and Benson disagreed, saying they want the public as close as possible.

“I want the people to be eyeballing me, and me eyeballing them,” Benson said. “I can’t eyeball them from there.”

Councilwoman Pam Ladd said she thought it was worth a shot to try. Councilman Peter Murphy said he also would like the city to consider broadcasting the meetings over the Internet.

City officials said Friday they have not bid the project out yet, so they could not give an estimate of the cost.

Compiled by staff writers Dan Whisenhunt and Cliff Hightower. Contact Dan Whisenhunt at 423-757-6481 or dwhisenhunt@times freepress.com. Contact Cliff Hightower at 423-757-6480 or chightower@timesfree press.com.

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