QUINCY — Last August, a resident of the Welcome Inn, 200 Maine, filed a minimum housing complaint with the city of Quincy stating that “the building is falling apart.”
Specifically, the resident mentioned roaches and bed bugs among other issues and claimed the owners, landlords or property manager had been informed of the situation and had not fixed anything.
Months of similar complaints about unaddressed structural issues and unsafe living conditions reached a turning point Tuesday when Quincy Mayor Mike Troup announced the closure of Welcome Inn, which offers transitional housing for roughly 300 residents.
This is the second closure of a transitional housing facility in Quincy this year after the Eagle’s Nest Hotel shut down in March.
During a Tuesday morning news conference at City Hall, Troup said inspections into the structural integrity of the building have been going on for the last six months, and a lack of ongoing maintenance has led to significant deterioration.
“We believe there’s at least 300 people that have been residing in the Welcome Inn and through the social services groups that we have brought together, including the Adams County Health Department as well as John Simon with the Adams County Emergency Response, we are coordinating to assist these people to find them shelter that’s going to be much safer than what they have today,” Troup said.
Quincy police and fire officials were on site Monday morning to assist residents with vacating the building at 200 Maine. To ensure a smooth transition to safer housing, Troup said he has contacted a number of area social service agencies, including the American Red Cross, United Way of Adams County, Salvation Army, Quincy Township, Transitions of Western Illinois, Two Rivers Regional Council, Blessing Hospital and Quincy Medical Group.
Quincy Township Supervisor Cindy Brink said the township is helping residents with their rent and utility expenses. One of the resources at the township’s disposal is the General Assistance Program, which is funded by property tax revenue and can cover a variety of living expenses.
“The residents, after talking with them, understand the process and honestly are anticipating and looking forward to a different rental situation,” Brink said.
Carol Brockmiller, Quincy Medical Group CEO, said her office has been in close contact with the United Way of Adams County to see if there’s a need that can be filled.
“We were able to assist by providing residents with a change of clothes,” Brockmiller said. “We know this situation is ongoing and we will continue to stay connected with United Way and our other community partners to support the many families who lost their home.”
In the mean time, Quincy-area social service agencies have helped to set up a temporary shelter at the former water department meter shop, 1016 Vermont, for displaced residents over the next week.
Troup said 30 residents have registered to stay at the shelter as of Tuesday, and it can support around 85 residents total. No residents have been turned down for shelter and all family units have been kept together, he added.
“If anything, it’s going to speed up the conversations about what additional housing we can add to the city,” Troup said. “But remember, anything that is going be building a new facility at best is one year away, so this is a difficult issue for the community.”
Troup said the Quincy Fire Department notified the city’s inspection department in January about structural issues in portions of the building’s concrete balconies and stairwells.
The owners, Quincy Property LLC based in Blue Springs, Mo., responded within a week of receiving a notice from the city and requested additional time for a structural analysis to be conducted. A structural report was prepared in March and a permit was issued for repairs in April, Troup said.
According to the notice, which was obtained by The Herald-Whig through the Freedom of Information Act, precast balcony floor panels, steel support beams, steel stair stringers and balcony guards have failed and pose a real and imminent risk to the life safety of occupants.
The northwest stairway, in particular, was ordered to be “immediately barricaded by solid, irremovable means as to prevent its use until a designed repair is prescribed and completed.”
But this was not the only report of neglect by the city.
Two days after the resident complaint from August was filed, the city performed an inspection of Welcome Inn and discovered a loose toilet and a hole next to the front door.
On Sept. 30 of last year, a correction order was issued to Welcome Inn’s property manager regarding multiple city, building and electric code violations. These violations included a light fixture handing from wiring in the electrical panel room, open junction box covers in the electrical panel room, an open junction box in the kitchen, an open panel with no cover in the upstairs hallway and improper wiring methods related to an air conditioner in the office lobby.
On March 1, a separate notice was sent to the owner of the building regarding litter accumulation.
Loose trash and garbage was observed along the public right-of-way on the south side of the property, which has overflowed from the dumpster, according to the notice.
On July 15, inspectors returned to the Welcome Inn regarding a separate complaint and discovered very little work had been performed, and it appeared additional failures had occurred since it was last inspected, Troup said.
Michael Seaver, director of inspections and enforcement for the city of Quincy, met with Troup the following day with plans to close the Welcome Inn.
Seaver said the owners of the property have been very cooperative throughout the inspection process.
“Going back to January after the first notice was sent, I think everybody was acting in good faith,” Seaver said. “They did hire MECO Engineering to perform the analysis. They later obtained a building permit, but at some point here, I think conditions have worsened and the work that was done had not been completed in a timely fashion.”
The hotel was completed in 1963 and an annex was added in 1965. It was a Holiday Inn until 1980 when it became the Quincy Motor Inn. In 1991, the hotel was converted to a Days Inn.
The hotel also operated as a Budget Host in recent years.
In 2014, the manager said the 121 hotel rooms had been under renovation, and the extended-stay apartments were up for renovations as well.
Should the owners come back with a good faith maintenance plan in a reasonable time frame, Troup said the city will work with them. But before they could secure occupancy, another formal inspection would have to be performed on the building, and a licensed structural engineer would have to sign off that the property is safe and compliant with minimum housing standards.