Headlines lit up two weeks ago, when the Focus broke the story that Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett would seek tax relief from Nashville to aid South Knoxville businesses owners who have been affected by the closure of the Henley Street Bridge. The TDOT announcement that the bridge’s opening would be delayed another 6 months sent business owners reeling- which prompted the County Mayor to decisive action. Also quick to respond was, State Senator Becky Massey, who represents the district. The two met with leaders in Nashville last week to discuss possible solutions. Among the potential conflicts related to the matter is the concern that giving a tax break to the businesses due to ramifications of a road project could set a precedent going forward. Additionally, while a property tax break has been discussed it is important to note that a great deal of the business owners in the area lease their space, and could therefore, potentially not benefit from the tax break. Other factors to be determined include determining which businesses would benefit from a tax break and where to draw clear boundary lines.

Many have suggested that the most logical solution would be to offer a break in the franchise and excise tax business owners pay to the State of Tennessee, since, after all, it is a state project. (It certainly seems the most simple and effective measure- particularly when one considers the alternative options.)

I caught up with both Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and State Senator Becky Massey regarding the issue today to ask whether or not a franchise and excise tax break had been considered. As far as they are aware, it has not yet been introduced into the dialogue. “We’re still very early in the conversation,” Massey related, “However, I’m committed to doing all I can to see that these businesses receive some type of relief.” Mayor Burchett also related: “The devil’s in the details, but we’re working on it, and it’s at the top of my priority list.” He also stressed the need for support of the measure from Knox County Commission and the Knoxville City Council.

More as I know it. Tasha Mahurin reporting.