Feds didn't know flood money was going to amphitheater

Money intended for victims of the May 2010 flood was used for design work for Ascend Amphitheater, which is under construction in this image. (WSMV file photo)

The federal agency that sent Nashville flood relief money said they did not know that $7 million was going towards an amphitheater.

A spokesman for HUD’s Southeast Region said they were aware the city planned to use disaster recovery money for “riverfront development” activity but were not “specifically aware of the amphitheater.”

A News4 I Team investigation found that Nashville officials told HUD in 2013 they couldn’t find anyone who still needed help after the May 2010 flood. That flood destroyed 11,000 properties in the Nashville area.REPORTED PREVIOUSLY: Money for flood recovery used for design of public facility | Council members question moving flood money to amphitheaterWilliam Harris of Pennington Bend had to wipe out his retirement account to make his house livable after the 2010 flood.

"I came home just in time to watch my house flood," Harris said. "It was completely underwater."

Metro government got $22 million in extra disaster relief money from the federal government the year after the flood.

It was money from HUD, administered through MDHA in Nashville.

In 2013, MDHA told HUD it couldn't find anyone who needed the money, so it used $7 million of it to do design and engineering work for Ascend Amphitheater.

The public had a chance to object. There was a public comment period. No one commented.

Harris said he didn't see the notice in the newspaper.

And if he had, he wouldn't have known the money was going to the amphitheater.

The notice published in the paper said the money was being redirected to "riverfront development."

"Yeah. I would not think, reading this, that riverfront development would mean I was building an amphitheater in downtown Nashville," Harris said.

Did MDHA follow all the rules? MDHA's executive director Jim Harbison said yes.

The I-Team asked HUD if a public hearing was required; HUD said no.

But some said the city could have done more outreach.

"They knew the areas that were flooded. Send a mailer out here; contacting our HOA," Harris said.

Steve Reiter is an MDHA watchdog.

"Frankly, MDHA and the (Mayor Karl) Dean administration dropped the ball," he said.

"What they should have done was do a press release to say, ‘these funds are available and these are the eligible things you can use them for.’ That was not done and that was a big mistake."

"They couldn't find me. I was right here, though," said Harris.

The I-Team asked HUD if any kind of audit was done regarding the funds; the HUD spokesman said no.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 I-Team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

Recommended for you