This has been a week of events and memories that are heart breaking: Remembrance of the September 11, 2001 horrific, brutal terrorist attacks on American soil that took so many innocent lives and changed our lives forever; Sept. 6-12, National Suicide Prevention Week, another sad, heart wrenching memory for many families that changed their lives forever.
In this week of memories and sadness, another sad event took place. Superior Creek Lodge extended stay hotel in East Ridge was condemned and closed. While some found this an event to cheer and celebrate, I didn’t look at it that way.
This closing was not about drugs and crimes. This building was closed because it was found to be structurally unsafe.
This event has caused conflict within our city on the pros and cons of need and effect of condemning the buildings.
How did this happen? How did it get this bad before it was addressed? I don’t have the answers and I am not sure anyone does, but many are ready to blame everyone.
East Ridge officials DID NOT go on a witch hunt to shut down the business, they simply did what they are charged to do in their position, serve the citizens of East Ridge.
I will try to recap what I have been able to put together as to how this happen at this time.
An official complaint was made to the city by a concerned person alleging pest infestation in a room at Superior Creek Lodge.
City Fire Marshall/Codes Supervisor went to investigate the complaint. During that inspection, he observed some issues that could be of concern. Should he have ignored what he saw because checking that was not what he was there for? Absolutely not! He did exactly what he is charged to do in his position and had to see how valid his concerns were.
The City Building Inspector and the Fire Chief/Interim City Manager were advised/involved, exactly what the Fire Marshall should have done.
After more extensive investigation, these officials found some serious, life safety issues with parts of the building. In the day to follow, they along with engineers (hired by the owner of the property) found similar issues in the whole complex.
Two buildings condemned and closed one night, the other two condemned and closed the next night. This left many individuals and families evicted with no warning and little time to find other shelter before having to leave their rented homes. Yes, I said homes. No they were not single family houses, they are not really apartments, but they are spaces where human beings live their lives. From my perspective that is home.
Many have felt the city is at fault and was uncaring by “putting people on the street” the first night in a driving rain storm.
I really don’t see how the City of East Ridge Officials had any choice other than what they did. If anyone thinks that the officials of East Ridge received any pleasure in doing this, I think you are totally wrong.
Did it break my heart to see families dealing with this? Yes it did! It also broke my heart for the employees that had to make this decision.
I can, without reservation, say that I think this was probably one of the hardest decisions that they have ever had to make. Some thought their actions were uncaring. I feel just the opposite. I think it was a very hard decision to weigh the residents’ safety against knowing that many of them had no place to go. As I understand it, the Red Cross, TEMA, and other organizations were called to see what help could be acquired for the residents prior to shutting the doors. That is not the action of someone who doesn’t care.
Could the residents not have been allowed to stay a couple of more days to prepare? I really don’t think by law or conscience the City could allow that to happen. Remember this was a life safety issue due to structural conditions of parts of the buildings. If you discovered your porch had rotten support, would you allow your parents, your children or your grandchildren to walk across it? I think not!
Could the City have made some sort of provision for the residents for at least a couple of days? Maybe housing them at the Community Center or the Arena? In retrospect, that might have been an option. But, put yourself in the shoes of those having to make the decision, right then! While the residents had to move with very little notice, our officials had to make all these decisions with very little notice. Decisions and actions had to be made quickly. They had to act immediately in regard, first and foremost, to protecting people from harm. They just became aware the building that houses hundreds of residents had structural issues.
First move is residents MUST be removed from the possibility of being harmed. As information was being evaluated, legal aspects being discussed, calls were being made for advice and trying to acquire help for the residents. Put yourself in the shoes of the Fire Chief, Fire Marshal, Building Inspector and the City Attorney. They were dealing with lots of different aspects of the problem at once, with the haunting realization that people could be in danger with every tick of the clock.
I will be honest with you; I would not want to be in their shoes this week. “Before judging, walk a mile in a man’s moccasins.”
Why did the City of East Ridge not provide help for the residents? They did, they removed them from potential harm.
I will say that if the City had paid for temporary housing for the residents, there would have been angry taxpayers saying, “Not with my tax dollars”.
How did this situation get to the point that required immediate attention? I am not sure. I will say there have been personnel and organizational changes in the Codes Division over the last couple of years. Did the property owner know there were problems? I don’t know. From information and pictures it appears that much of the damage was not visible.
Right now, it is what it is. Spending time finding someone to blame is unproductive. We learn from our experiences, but it is only beneficial if we incorporate what we learn to plan a better future.
Business owners should be more aware of every aspect of their business. I have a feeling that the owner of this property has learned this. According to reports, he is moving forward to make necessary repairs.
Does the City of East Ridge need to regularly inspect businesses? Of course! Has that been done? It appears not to have been done effectively.
That was the past, I think the City has certainly learned that as we move forward that has to change. I believe with the new Building Inspector he is probably already got a plan of action for a more responsible future for East Ridge.
Now is the time to stand together, not to argue, seek out someone to blame, point fingers, make accusations, etc., etc.
What is done it done. The city officials did their job. The business owner is fixing the problems. The displaced residents are getting help, thanks to the kind, loving, compassionate people in this area.
We can mark this day in the history of East Ridge as a day of defeat, or we can mark it as a day of learning from our past mistakes and moving to a better, brighter, safer future. I was told years ago, “A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.” Mistakes have been made. Let’s turn those mistakes into opportunities to learn and not let history repeats itself.