Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Car washes, plant nurseries may get aid

Legislation calls for credits on water, sewer bills

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • July 14, 2010

Car washes and plant nurseries might get some financial relief from Metro to compensate them for some of the business they lost after the May flood shut down one of the city's two water treatment plants.

A group of council members introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide credits on the businesses' monthly water and sewer bills. The total amount available to all qualifying businesses would be $200,000 from city reserve funds, though that amount could change, Councilwoman Emily Evans said.

Metro ordered car washes and plant nurseries to stop operating for four weeks in May after the flood knocked out the K.R. Harrington Water Treatment Plant. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued an emergency order that the city eliminate non-essential water use "to the maximum extent practical" on May 4.

Metro lifted the water restrictions for car washes on June 1, when the treatment plant reopened. Plant nurseries got to start watering again a bit earlier, Metro Water Services spokeswoman Sonia Harvat said.

"Because water is essential for their functioning, we essentially put them out of business for a month," Evans said. "They bore an unusual burden. I'm not sure we can make them whole, but we can at least give them some relief."

About 30 car wash owners, mostly in Davidson County, formed a lobbying association after the shutdown. Shane Bowen, the association's president, said the group, which hopes to expand statewide, appreciates the council bill.

"At this point, anything is better than nothing," said Bowen, who owns three Car Wash King locations. "This is going to make things better."

Bowen said the water and sewer credits could last for six months to a year. He said there are 76 car washes in Davidson County.

Council members Charlie Tygard, Sam Coleman and Vivian Wilhoite are sponsoring the legislation along with Evans. The council will take its first look at the bill next week

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