|By Joe Wojtas, The Day, New London,
Conn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 29, 2010--MYSTIC -- The Ramada Inn on Route 27 was plunged into darkness Tuesday at 5:22 p.m. after the generator supplying the 150-room hotel with electricity was disconnected for nonpayment.
Hotel guests had been relocated earlier in the day.
On Dec. 20, CL&P shut off the power to the hotel, saying that hotel owner Whitehall Avenue LLC had repeatedly failed to pay its bill, which was $88,000 past due. Whitehall then brought in the generator, which burns 200 gallons of diesel fuel a day, to power the hotel.
But on Tuesday, Eagle Electric of Westerly removed the generator after the $6,000 in checks Whitehall had written to cover its cost were returned for insufficient funds, according to Old Mystic Fire Chief Ken Richards Jr.
Richards, who by state law had to evacuate the hotel if there was no power, and Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek were at the Ramada Tuesday afternoon discussing security, fire alarm and water supply issues with hotel Manager Bob Kenney. Haberek and Richards praised Kenney for his cooperation.
Kenney said the 10 people staying at the hotel had been relocated to another local hotel earlier in the day. He said the hotel was still trying to contact one guest who was scheduled to check in.
"It's an unfortunate situation, but we're confident we'll receive a significant infusion of cash over the next day or so and we'll be back up and running," Kenney said.
The shutoff means the hotel has no fire alarm or security system, but Haberek said the hotel is looking for a way to provide minimal power for those systems.
Richards said he was particularly concerned about the lack of a fire alarm. Although there would be no guests in the hotel, in the event of a fire a multimillion-dollar piece of property would be in danger of being destroyed, he said.
Haberek called the closure a "sad situation."
"Our plan is to help protect this structure as much as we can," Haberek said. "This is a landmark in Mystic, as are the other hotels. We look forward to working with (the owners)."
As the hotel went dark, a worker from the Aquarion Water Co. arrived to cut off the water supply to the hotel from the street. If pipes freeze and burst, only the water that has not been drained from them will flow into the hotel, thus eliminating the possibility of flooding the building.
Richards said draining water from the pipes and shutting the water off at the street would prevent "catastrophic damage.'"
Efforts were also being made to secure the building, which has electronic locks.
When CL&P shut off the power last week, Steven Weil of Trumbull, a partner in the ownership group, said the group hoped to keep the generator running until the hotel could get an infusion of cash from its own sources and possibly the state of Connecticut.
"The partners definitely wish to keep this hotel going," he said at the time. "But it's a very tough situation. We're fighting and struggling to keep the hotel in operation."
Weil, whose group bought the hotel in December 2007, said the recession, combined with the loss of revenue from a restaurant tenant who left after two months and caused a great amount of damage to the property, led to the hotel's financial problems -- which are deeper than just the unpaid utility bills.
The town of Stonington is moving toward foreclosing on the hotel as it owes the town $59,350 in back taxes, a sum that will increase by $34,453 on Jan. 1. If the bill is not paid, the town will send the owners a demand for payment in March. If nothing happens, the town will proceed with foreclosure.
The Ramada also owes the town $28,503 in back sewer fees and $1,864 for trash collection. Because the trash bill is three months past due, the town will now stop collecting trash if the bill is not paid.
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Copyright (c) 2010, The Day, New London, Conn.
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