Six people were still living in the Royal Inn on Tuesday after the motel was forced to shut down because of an unsafe walkway.
Columbia Fire Department Assistant Chief Brad Fraizer said dispatchers received a call Monday complaining that there was a structural problem with the motel walkway. Fraizer said that when firefighters arrived and saw signs of serious deterioration of the rebar that supports the walkway, they made the call to shut down the building.
The decision forced more than 40 motel guests, some of which were on extended stays, to find other living arrangements.
Fraizer said the city was working Tuesday to make arrangements for the six guests still at the motel. He said many of the guests called the motel home.
Stacey Hawkins said she’s been living at Royal Inn for the last four months. She arrived home from work Monday to find out everyone had to leave.
“This is my home,” Hawkins said.
“Obviously there’s issues with the hotel that are not up to par, the balconies fell down and they’ve been having issues ever since I lived here,” Hawkins said. “The elevator breaks down all the times. It’s a bad situation.”
She said her room is all she could afford and she knows she is not the only one that called Royal Inn home.
“There’s people here with kids and people here on oxygen. It’s unbelievable,” Hawkins said.
She said she is having a hard time finding the next place to stay.
Hawkins said there are unfair stereotypes about people who live in motels.
“I work, I have a full time job,” she said.
Hawkins said she continues to search for new housing but has had no luck.
Fraizer said it could take a while before the motel reopens.
“For them to reopen, they are going to have to have all the walkways reevaluated by a licensed engineer,” Fraizer said.
He said if inspectors see deficiencies, those problems would have to be repaired.
Fraizer said once the repairs are made and approved by the city, officials will reissue an occupancy certification.
He said the fire department inspected the building last July, but that inspection was limited to fire code issues, such as fire alarms, smoke alarms and the correct number of fire extinguishers.
Fraizer said fire department inspectors also look for any obvious signs of structural problems, but back in July they did not see any issues.
He said the city isn’t required to do yearly inspections.
“There’s nothing in those codes that triggers a recurring inspection of things like a walkway,” Fraizer said.