By Susan Pietras-Smith Following a traumatic fall for the residents of the Beachgate Inn, a final blow hit them this week when Colonial Beach Town Council and a state Fire Marshal decided to close the hotel.
In October of this year Elizabeth D. Thompson was stabbed to death in the parking lot. William Baker of Indian Head, MD, is awaiting trial on that case. Last week, a pickup truck hit two vehicles before hitting and killing a 62 year-old man standing beside his vehicle.
Following the accident, the building was inspected for damage due to the truck striking the porch and its supports. Inspectors found multiple issues with the building due to lack of maintenance or various items being installed incorrectly. Upon finding many electrical hazards, Building Inspector Dexter Monroe called in the State Fire Marshal, Timothy Ritchey from the Virginia Department of Fire and Safety in Orange, Virginia. Ritchey stated his concerns over the multiple items, but especially the electrical issues, saying in his report to the town, “There are dangerous conditions likely to contribute to the spread of fire in the hotel.”
It was recommended that the residents be removed from the building for their own safety. Town officials, Building Inspector Monroe, Fire Marshal Ritchey, and the owner of the Beach Gate Inn, Douglas Sims worked together to come up with a solution to keep the residents in their homes through the Christmas holiday. Sims was told he had to have someone on “fire watch” twenty-four hours a day as long as the building was occupied.
Monroe told the council that owner Doug Simms originally agreed to pay for fire watch services through Dec. 26. Residents would have to move out by Dec. 27. Simms hired Northern Neck Building to perform the watches needed to ensure the safety of individuals staying there. According to Monroe the person doing the fire watch was told to only work until 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve, after which there would be no one on watch.
Town Council held an emergency meeting on Dec. 23 to give Town Manager Val Foulds, authority to spend $4000 to keep fire watch going on the building through January 3. All members of council were present at this meeting and they voted unanimously to pass resolution 65-12. Council Elect Wanda Goforth was also present for the meeting as she will take office on January 1.
There are more than 300 pictures showing the conditions in which residents of the Beachgate Inn were living. The photographs document issues ranging from lack of caulking around bathtubs to obvious water leaks around ceiling light fixtures. Many electrical outlets are incorrectly installed, as are many light fixtures. There are exposed wires visible, along with outlets lacking covers, or with improperly installed covers, and there are light fixtures hanging from their power wires.
Town officials have contacted the Red Cross, along with other groups in order to try and find places for displaced residents. At this time, town officials believe it will come down to local citizens and groups to help these people as many organizations are closed over the holiday.
Town council member, Tim Curtin is coordinating the help effort and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. All those willing to help are asked to contact him as soon as possible.