- Published on Sunday, 23 December 2012 11:18
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Residents of the Beachgate Inn in Colonial Beach have had more than their fair share of tragedy this year with a stabbing incident that resulted in a death in October and a vehicle accident last week that killed a pedestrian standing near his car. Now they have until Dec. 27 to find a new home.
The Journal learned Friday evening that residents at the hotel will be displaced after Christmas due to serious fire safety issues uncovered after the tragic accident Wednesday morning that left a pedestrian dead.
Officials uncovered unsafe conditions from lack of maintenance at the Beachgate Inn. The issues were discovered when inspectors checked the building for safety, after the car struck the building and several supports for the structure’s porch.
When police arrived on the scene they determined that a 72 year old man had passed out from a medical condition while driving his car down Euclid Ave. towards Colonial Ave. around 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The vehicle traveled across Colonial Ave. and into the parking lot of the Beachgate Inn located at 800 Colonial Ave.
According to a press release by Chief Kenneth Blevins, Sr., “After striking the hotel sign the vehicle struck two parked cars and several support rails before striking an outside wall of the hotel. The male victim, age 62 that was struck, had been visiting a relative for an extended period of time at the hotel. He was standing beside his vehicle, which was the second parked vehicle that was struck when the accident occurred.”
The victim was taken to Mary Washington Hospital by helicopter and pronounced dead a short time after. The driver of the vehicle was also transported to Mary Washington Hospital where he was treated and released.
Town officials meet
Town officials called for a special closed meeting at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 20 to discuss the safety issues and what responsibility the town had to the residents of the Beachgate Inn for their safety.
Although the violations were not released to the press, Foulds described them as horrendous. Foulds and Town Attorney Andrea Erard briefed the town council at the closed meeting telling them, “The inspectors found violations that warranted closing the building down,” Foulds also told the council they were seeking additional resources.
Upon closer inspection
Building Inspector Dextor Monroe called in State Fire Marshal Timothy Ritchey from the Virginia Department of Fire and Safety to inspect the building because of serious concerns he had for the electrical system and to determine if they could be remedied.
According to Town Manager Val Foulds there were other violations but the focus was on electrical violations which were outlined in an affidavit by fire marshall from Orange County Virginia.
The affidavit stated, “There are dangerous conditions likely to contribute to the spread of fire in the hotel.”
“Because there are families,” Foulds said in a phone interview Friday evening, “The building officials and fire marshal worked with owner Mr. Douglas Sims to have what’s called a fire watch. A person has to be stationed at the property 24 hours a day to routinely inspect the rooms to ensure there are no violations such as tampering with fire alarms to make them inoperable and to ensure no cooking was be taking place other than the use of microwaves.”
This agreement was struck to keep from displacing the residence before Christmas and to give them a little time to make other arrangements.
One condition of the agreement is that the fire watch must check in with police to ensure they are following the safety protocol. If this condition is not carried out it will be deemed a violation.
Despite the fact that it is not the town’s responsibility to provide help for the residents, town officials began calling various agencies, including the Red Cross to seek monetary or lodging help for the residents.
Town Clerk Kathy Flanagan had previously put together a list of resources in reaction to various citizens and visitors coming to Town Hall to seek help when they were destitute or homeless.
The town originally had charged the hotel’s management with the task of informing the residents of the situation but Monroe took the opportunity today when most of the residents were on hand to brief them of the violations, the safety of the building and the importance of the fire watch, which requires the person on duty to check the rooms inside for violation. Residents have been notified that they have until Dec. 27 at 4 p.m. to vacate the premises and are now faced with the task of finding alternate lodging.
Foulds said that the owner, Sims, met with the fire marshal and building inspector but she has not spoken to Sims personally.
Foulds said, “This is the best we can do to keep from displacing the tenants over the Christmas holiday. The town staff has been making calls to the Red Cross and other agencies.” But she fears most of it will come down to community resources.
“We are going to have to reach down deep for those who have no other options,” Foulds said.
Photos reveal years of neglect and unsafe electrical wiring at the hotel. The Journal gained access to over 300 photos of conditions in the hotel that range from poor and unsightly repairs to serious fire and health violations.
Photos shows cracked or missing caulk between tubs and showers which can produce deadly mold. But the Journal focused on electrical issues. Just a few of the unsafe conditions included outlets installed on cabinets or light fixtures on the ceiling with visible water damage around them. Several pictures show exposed covered wires, outlets with no covers and covered wires connecting light switches, and outlets out in the open when code requires wire to be inside the walls. There were several light fixtures with exposed bare wires in the ceiling, many of which hang from the electrical wires and are not properly mounted or not mounted at all.
Town officials have a heavy heart going into the Christmas holiday but legally their hands are tied, they have no control to stop the close. Both state inspectors made the decision to close due to safety issues which are due to lack of maintenance and unrelated to the damage from the accident. They are obligated to follow state regulations and building codes. Town officials can not sway the actions of the inspectors who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring the health safety and welfare of the public.
The Journal has not contacted either the manager of the hotel or the owner of the property at time of press to determine how these conditions deteriorated to the level they are now.
Lending a helping hand