Occupy Nashville costs at $151,000
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Mar 15, 2012 | 2812 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eric Watson
Eric Watson
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The cost of Occupy Nashville to the residents of Tennessee is an estimated $151,000 for law enforcement and cleaning up Legislative Plaza, according to state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland representing the 22nd Legislative District.

Watson wrote the publicly debated House Bill 2638, or the “Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012,” in response to the Occupy movement’s encampment in the public square that continued from Oct. 7, 2011, until the bill was signed March 2, by Gov. Bill Haslam.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security payroll costs are estimated at $90,500 for 3,144 man-hours. The cost to the General Services Department for cleaning and repairing the plaza is approximately $61,000, according to a report prepared by David Carpenter, facility administrator for the Capitol Complex.

Watson, who forwarded the estimate to the Cleveland Daily Banner on Wednesday, said the cost of removing fecal matter, urine and needles totaled $9,900.

“I wish I’d had these figures when I presented the bill,” Watson said. “This just reinforces the purpose of writing the bill.”

The damage estimate shows $23,525 in additional cleaning costs and $37,500 in potential costs to restore the plaza to its condition prior to Oct. 7.

General Service Department Assistant Commissioner of Communications Kelly Smith said the costs are in addition to the regular custodial work of simply emptying trash cans.

“Those are the costs incurred in addition to our regular janitorial and custodial work,” she said. “The guys had to come in on Sunday and clean up all the fecal matter, urine and needles.”

She said the plaza is generally power-washed once each year, “but this year, because urine has saturated the liner beneath the stone, we’re going to have to power wash with an enzyme and the cheapest bid we’ve gotten so far is $18,000,” Smith said.

There are also repairs needed to track lighting around planters and fountains, resetting marble tiles and banister rails.

“It’s a pretty hefty price tag and some of it we’ve started, but some of it will have to wait until we get our budget dollars in July,” she said.

Watson described the destruction of the property as “needless acts,” repeated time and time again by a few people.

The bill prevents people from living on publicly owned property not designated for residential use and prohibits people using such property from posing a health hazard or threat to the safety and welfare of others.

While some argued the bill targets homeless people and the right to protest, Watson disagreed. He said the bill does not limit the right to protest or make the protest on the Plaza end, and neither is it a bill that denies First Amendment rights to any individual.

“The Legislative Plaza is for everyone to enjoy, not for only a few to destroy,” Watson said.