Bedbugs, lawsuit – hotel for poor closes

       The Express Inn, which has been offering about 50 low-cost rooms and other assistance for people down on their luck, is scheduled to close May 15 after a District Court ruling May 3 and an earlier statement by a court-appointed receiver that the hotel was “severely infested” with bedbugs and hampered by other unhealthy or unsafe conditions.
       The 45-year-old, 120-room hotel is at 725 W. Cimarron St.
       Its problems were revealed in a statement by a court-appointed receiver in connection with a lawsuit filed by People's National Bank after the out-of-state mortgagee (Grot Cimarron LLC) stopped making payments to the bank last fall on a 20-year note it had signed in February 2000 to buy the property for $2,196,750.
       The ruling by District Court Judge Barbara Hughes sided with the request by People's for a “summary judgment” in the bank's behalf.
       Most of the long-term tenants are finding homes in various other local motels, according to Robert Holmes, director of Homeward Pikes Peak, the city's umbrella agency for homeless issues. The ones that aren't are “a few tent campers” with drug and alcohol problems who tend to resist being helped, Holmes said. “We'll get them the help, but they have to be ready.”
       The C-C Boarding Home Annex, an indigent-aiding non-profit organization that was tied in with the Express Inn management (but not its ownership), remains in business and is planning to set up at another location, Holmes said. At the hotel, the annex staff had been helping tenants with government paperwork, job searches and various personal issues.
       The good news in the closure is the emergence of a business entity - he declined to reveal a name - “that's making steady progress toward acquiring it [the hotel].” The entity is a for-profit that's willing to invest in a total renovation, including gutting all the rooms. In addition, the entity is planning to continue using the Express Inn “to work with low-income individuals,” Holmes summarized.
       Otherwise, an auction of the Express Inn property is scheduled July 6. Grot Cimarron LLC has until then to make good on the property; otherwise the bank, or someone who outbids the bank at the auction, will assume ownership, according to an employee of the El Paso County Public Trustee's Office.
       It is not known how long the hotel will remain closed.
       The District Court-appointed receiver, attorney David Mersman, had identified in a statement to Judge Hughes January 28 that the hotel was facing more than $280,000 in “immediate financial needs.”
       Of that total, $200,000 was needed for “bedbug remediation.” Mersman's statement elaborates that some areas of the property are “severely infested with bedbugs, requiring management to close those areas and to dispose of furnishings, carpeting and other materials. The elimination of these insects is extremely difficult and the spread of them throughout the complex is highly likely.”
       Other Express Inn needs Mersman identified are utilities (nearly $20,000); and insurance premium payments for flood, fire/liability and worker's compensation (over $60,000), according to the receiver.
       “Critical items” listed in the statement include an inoperable fire alarm system, a carbon monoxide hazard, exposed electrical wiring, lack of safety caps on natural gas lines, collapsing steel and concrete on an upper walkway, failing exterior stairs, broken windows, and “numerous fire code violations.”
       Mersman's statement concludes that “the financial prospects for the property are completely bleak and without a capital infusion, it cannot sustain itself.”
       Woodmen Valley Chapel, which had been bringing bags of food to the Express Inn's tenants is continuing to collect food donations from church attendees. However, because those tenants are now relocating “all over the place,” plans call for the food to be redirected to three area pantries, according to Dick Siever of Woodmen, who is also director of the Westside Community Center. Still, his church would like to resume a “motel ministry” at some point, he added.
       The donation effort is called “One can, I can,” based on a Woodmen request that church attendees each bring at least one non- perishable food item a week, he said.

Westside Pioneer article