Thursday, June 3, 2010

Flood Victims Displaced Again

Hotels clear rooms to make way for CMA fans By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • June 3, 2010 First, the flood made Bobby Adkins homeless. Now a giant music festival is doing the same thing. Adkins, his roommate and nine other flooded-out families living in The Fiddler's Inn, received letters last month saying they would need to vacate their rooms for the four-day CMA Music Festival, which begins June 10. All 202 of the Music Valley Drive hotel's rooms were booked for the event, expected to attract 32,000 out-of-town visitors. About 95 percent of the city's hotel rooms were booked for CMA Fest before the flood, said Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau. With Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center closed until November, reservations for 1,000 guests from there were moved to Williamson County hotels Spyridon called area hotels weeks ago to remind them to be ready for CMA Fest guests and let flood victims and recovery workers know that the event would be displacing them again. Most did so, he said. "We need to take care of our residents," Spyridon said. "But it's a balance of recovery with business. We have a significant event, and a close second is how badly the city needs an infusion of sales tax." For Adkins, flooded out of his Penn Meade Way home in Donelson on May 2, the news is tough to take. He packed up his belongings Tuesday and moved in with a friend. His house, which at one point had four feet of water inside, is under construction. He doesn't know when he will be able to move back in. "You lose your home, and now you're told to leave," he said. "That's pretty bad. I don't want their name to be mud, but there are people who don't have a place to go. I was fortunate to have friends that took us in." On Wednesday, Atkins left his friend's house in Murfreesboro early to work on his home, then took a shower in an unfinished bathroom there before starting his night shift at a Bellevue assisted living facility. Johnny Walker, The Fiddler's Inn's owner, said he sent a letter to flood victims two weeks ago. It asked about their plans for departure and offered to store their belongings during the four-day festival, after which they were welcome back. Six of the 10 affected rooms agreed, he said. The other four just moved out. "I met with them and told them I was obligated with the reservations and asked to please find other accommodations for four days," Walker said. "I just do not have the room." Event vital to Nashville Major events are vital to Nashville hotels' bottom lines because they produce more bookings and the hotels are allowed to increase rates based on demand. For instance, the downtown Best Western has a room available for $275 on June 13. After CMA Fest, the rates drop to around $140. A hotel spokesperson there, along with others at two other Nashville hotels, said they couldn't share how many rooms were being rented to flood victims — and what was being done with them during the festival — due to confidentiality concerns. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is giving flood victims lodging vouchers for $250 per week. In some cases, including after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has paid hotels directly, spokeswoman Lucy Murray said, but Nashville flood victims are being paid directly. FEMA doesn't know how many are encountering problems because of the festival. Johnathon Stockton, Adkins' roommate, said flood victims were paying a discounted rate of $250 a week there. The rates are going to $90 a night during the festival. "I understand it's a business," Stockton said. "I understand business it's about making money. But we just had a natural disaster. We should have a few little accommodations. We just took a backseat, and we're homeless again." The Country Music Association had already announced that it would donate half of the festival proceeds to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Metro Nashville's partner agency for raising money for flood victims.

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