By DAVID ADAM
Muddy River News Editor
QUINCY — Malcolm Thomas had heard rumors for several days.
So he wasn’t surprised when he and his girlfriend, Tarra Florea, learned Tuesday morning they had to move their belongings from the Welcome Inn, 200 Maine.
“We already knew it was going to happen,” Thomas said. “There always were rumors, and this place has such a long history of just not being kept up to code. This building always was managed poorly, so it was just a matter of time before, well, you know.”
Quincy Mayor Mike Troup announced at a mid-morning press conference Tuesday that city officials, Quincy police and Adams County sheriff’s deputies were at the motel earlier in the day to inform residents, employees and owners of the decision to shut down the motel.
Motel must close ‘due to unsafe conditions’
Quincy Property LLC of Blue Springs, Mo., owns the property. Kenneth Logan with Quincy Property LLC was at the Welcome Inn Tuesday morning. He refused to be interviewed.
“You won’t run anything I say accurately anyway,” he said as he sat at a table in the hotel lobby. “Get off my property.”
Troup said the motel must close its operations “due to the unsafe conditions that independent structural engineers have reported, based on their walkthrough and inspections on this property.” He said at least 300 people living at the motel were displaced. Notices placed on every door at the Welcome Inn informed people “the structure is unsafe, and its occupancy has been prohibited.”
“We’re all coordinating to assist these people to find other shelter that’s going to be much safer than what they have today,” Troup said.
Several service agencies available to help motel residents
Multiple service organizations were available Tuesday to provide assistance. All Welcome Inn residents were told to go to the Multi-Agency Resource Center, the former water department meter shop at 1016 Vermont. A shelter with air conditioning is available at that location for seven days.
Service agencies at the center were Salvation Army Disaster Services, Quanada, YWCA, Regional Office of Education, Clarity Healthcare, Preferred Family Healthcare, Transitions, Two Rivers Regional Council of Public Officials, United Way of Adams County, General Assistance and the American Red Cross.
Jenna Hull, director of programs and services for the United Way, said the center has enough cots for 50 people.
“Some people are coming into the MARC, and they’re not certain yet if they feel safe enough to stay here,” Hull said. “My guess is most people want to find a place to stay with a friend or a family member.
“Every social service agency that we reached out to (last week) said yes. They’re all here working hard. Everybody’s been amazing. People need help with rent, utilities, that kind of thing. Some of our clients have had trouble getting the electric turned on somewhere in their name, and we can help with that. Some of the residents are asking to leave town, and if they have a place to stay, we will help with that.
“We’ve told the people at the Welcome Inn that we have resources for them, and we are here to help.”
She said the Western Illinois Veterinary Clinic, 3910 Wismann Lane, has agreed to house up to 100 animals for a week.
City first started investigating Welcome Inn in January
Troup said the Quincy Fire Department notified the city’s inspection department on Jan. 18 about concerns regarding structural issues in portions of the concrete balconies and stairwells at the Welcome Inn. An inspection was conducted on Jan. 19, which resulted in a notice being sent to the motel owners and management identifying issues of concern. The city also ordered a structural analysis to be conducted.
MECO Engineering of Hannibal, Mo., performed an inspection on Feb. 23, and submitted a report dated March 4 to city officials for review. A building permit was issued April 22 for repairs to what the city categorized as “Tier One” issues — the worst under city code.
Troup said the city’s inspection staff visited the Welcome Inn on July 15 to address a separate complaint and observed very little work performed under the building permit. Additional failures were observed in areas of the balconies.
Michael Seaver, building official and director of inspection and enforcement forthe city, informed Troup on July 16 of the plan to close the Welcome Inn because of structural issues and the unsafe condition of the property.
“We’ve had additional structural engineers study the MECO report, and we had another walkthrough last Friday with the (motel) representative, the inspection department and a structural engineer from MECO as well,” Troup said. “Each report by professional structural engineers confirmed significant structural problems to the stairwells and the balconies, which are the only ways for residents to enter and exit their their rooms.
“And so we took the action earlier (Tuesday).”
‘You can just look at it and see it needs to be repaired’
Sonya Dean was at the Welcome Inn helping her mother gather her belongings. Dean said her mother has lived at the motel for three years, andshe never had any problems and enjoyed living there.
“She called me crying and said she had an hour to get out,” Dean said. “She has a place to go, but I’m guessing a lot of the people here don’t. I hope they have something figured out. The building does need to be shut down. You can just look at it and see it needs to be repaired. It’s just a sad situation all around.”
Parker Cookson was helping his girlfriend’s sister move out. He said he had read about a possible closure on social media. His girlfriend is allowing her sister to move in.
“This is crazy that they’re kicking everybody out here,” he said. “It’s just random to me. I know it’s not safe here. You can kind of tell.”
Quincy couple said they never felt safe at motel
Florea said the news of the eviction led to “a roller coaster of emotions.” She has been living with Thomas at the motel for a couple of months. Thomas said he has lived at the motel several times over multiple years. Both Thomas and Florea said they never felt safe.
“All the time. All the time,” he said.
“I can’t even go to bed to sleep at night without something happening, people knocking on our door all hours of the night,” she said. “People will come to a room thinking somebody lives there, and that person hasn’t lived there for several months. The parking lot isn’t very well lit. On the Fourth of July, there were people out here just throwing firecrackers in the air.”
Both Florea and Thomas made arrangements for other places to live. Thomas said he spoke with the Welcome Inn manager on Monday. He was worried he might not get his rent money back if the building was closed.
“He told us that if the building got shut down, he would let us know,” Thomas said. “In the back of my mind, I knew that was just a bunch of bull hunky.
“Financial-wise, this is a very, very big inconvenience. Neither one of us saw this coming. I thought it was just a bunch of hearsay, but to believe that it actually happened today, and today’s payday for both of us … we woke up today and just assumed it was going to be a normal day. We had no idea.”
Florea said her brother-in-law recently had his colon removed and was living in a room on the south side of the south building.
“He didn’t know anything about this,” she said. “He’s trying to move, but I don’t know.”
Troup calls Tuesday eviction ‘pressure point for community’
Troup admitted during Tuesday’s press conference the city doesn’t have enough available housing units for all of the displaced people.
“This is a pressure point for the community,” he said. “Anybody who is going to be building a new facility is, at best, one year away. So this is a difficult issue for the community.
“We want help 100 percent of the people who were residing in the Welcome Inn last night,” Troup said. “To what degree and what do they need, that’s to be determined by the social service people who are working together as a team.
“I hope the story a week from now is going to be, ‘Yes, they were all assisted.’”
Seaver said he had a conversation with Logan Tuesday morning about the city’s decision.
“I will say that the owner has been very cooperative throughout the process,” Seaver said. “Going back to January after the first notice was sent, I think everybody was acting in good faith. They did hire MECO Engineering to perform the analysis, and they later obtained the building permit, but at some point, conditions have worsened. The work that was done had not been completed in a timely fashion.”
Engineering report doesn’t indicate cost to make repairs
If the owners choose to make the repairs to the facility, “we’ll proceed from there,” Seaver said. “I think the structure is repairable, but it’s going to require quite a bit of time in terms of planning and design.”
“If they come to us with a good faith plan, if they say, ‘This is what we’re going to do to improve the property’ within a reasonable time period, we’ll work with them,” Troup said.
Seaver said the MECO report did not indicate what it would cost to make the repairs allowing for the motel to be re-opened.
“As long as the property is being secured, (Quincy Property LLC) can take as much time as necessary (to make repairs),” he said.
The city announced a Holiday Inn motel would be built in September 1962 at 200 Maine, site of the former HyGrade Food Products Company. Construction began on the site in May 1963, and the facility opened on Feb. 1, 1964, with 121 sleeping units. A grand opening was held May 10, 1964. Dr. Carl Hulen was the operator of the Holiday Inn. Charles Russell was the innkeeper, and Al Addington was the first manager of the restaurant. The motel had a ballroom which accommodated up to 580 people.
The motel has operated under various other names since 1980.