Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nashville council approves $114,000 to tear down 17 eyesores

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • April 21, 2010 Seventeen buildings Metro considers public safety hazards soon will be history, eyesores no more. The Metro Council voted Tuesday to take $114,000 from the city's reserve funds to allow Metro Codes to demolish the buildings, which are at the top of a list of 37 run-down structures that need to be destroyed. An East Nashville house that had been an eyesore for years burned on April 1. The fire spread to surrounding homes and displaced about two dozen people. The demolition money is part of a $4,593,200 supplemental budget appropriation the council approved. Mayor Karl Dean requested the money to help several city agencies get through the current budget year, which ends June 30. Almost half of the money will subsidize the Metro Hospital Authority, which runs Nashville General Hospital at Meharry and two other facilities. At a budget committee meeting Monday, council members asked why the authority needed $2.2 million — about 50 percent more than the $1.5 million it projected it would need during a midyear budget review in January. Jason Boyd, Nashville General's interim CEO, said the hospital has controlled its expenses this year, staying about $100,000 below budget. But revenues fell short of expectations as inpatient volume, TennCare patient volume and the hospital's billing collection rate declined slightly. Councilman Charlie Tygard lamented the ongoing struggles of the hospital, which cares for many of the city's poorest, least-insured residents. "It just seems we get further and further behind," Tygard said. But Boyd noted that the hospital started the fiscal year with a budgeted deficit of $2.8 million and will need $600,000 less than that to close the gap. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said the hospital won't start the next budget year with a deficit. "I think we're all better served by having General Hospital than by not having it," he said. Councilwoman Edith Taylor Langster, whose district includes the hospital, said the facility's management wouldn't ask for millions of dollars if it didn't need the money. "They find no joy in coming up and asking for this, but I'm glad they do," Langster said. Fee increases In other business, the council: • Voted 27-8 to raise the fees it charges developers for building permits, inspections, plan examinations and similar services. The fees will go up about 30 percent on average, effective May 1. Metro Codes Director Terry Cobb has said the fee increases are necessary so his department can recover the costs of providing services to developers and contractors. Fees fell $2.4 million short of costs in 2009, meaning taxpayers subsidized the people who used the services. • Rejected a nonbinding resolution expressing support for state legislation that opposes the new federal health-care reform law. The vote was 9-23.

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