The Tallassee City Council voted May 14 to give the owner of the Hotel Talasi until June 10 to begin repairs on the crumbling building after he said he would receive bids for repairs by May 20.
The council condemned the building at a March meeting as a threat to public safety.
Owner Wylie Troupe presented a letter to the council saying he is awaiting bids from contractors to fix the roof and part of the west wall of the building. The letter said the bids would not be in until the week of June 20 but later in the public hearing Troupe said the incorrect month was written in the letter and the actual closing date for bids is May 20.
"Once that work is complete, the building of the Hotel Talisi will begin," Troupe wrote in the letter Mayor Johnny Hammock read aloud. "I hope you will reconsider your position of the Hotel Talisi as a nuisance and let us bring back the Hotel Talisi as it should be.”
During the meeting, Troupe said, "It takes longer to do things than some people thinks it does.”
Several members of the council said they are concerned about a month-long lag between getting bids and beginning repair work on the building. Troupe told the council a structural engineer has looked at it.
"They didn't say they're structurally safe," Troupe said. "But he could not even say himself when it would fall in. He said it might take a tornado to come through there."
Councilmember Bill Godwin wanted more specifics from Troupe on the date work will be finished.
“This has gone on and on and we are in a liability situation,” Godwin said. “We are aware of the damage and potential for lawsuits if someone gets hurt or killed from something falling.”
Troupe could not offer a date for completion but assured the council work would begin within a few days of receiving the bids.
The council rejected Godwin’s initial proposal to accept Troupe’s plan with the stipulation work would start on June 10, that he would provide weekly, specific progress reports to Hammock and the city’s building inspector, that the city must see substantial progress and be given a reasonable completion date, and the contractor must provide in writing specific measures he is putting in place to ensure public safety during construction.
The council voted against the motion 3-2; councilmember Darryl Wilson recused himself, Terrell Brown, Damian Carr and Jeremy Taunton voted no, and Godwin and David Stough voted yes.
Brown made a motion to demolish the building but it died for lack of a second.
Troupe said he would not sign a contract relieving the city of liability if a lawsuit arises, as Taunton and Hammock suggested.
"I will give you a report on what the conditions are but I will not sign anything like what you said until I talk with a lawyer," Troupe said.
City attorney John Smith explained the city could be held liable even if Troupe claimed full liability for the property.
Taunton asked Troupe to agree to use only a licensed contractor and Godwin explained that stipulation would be included in the specific progress report to be shared with Hammock and the building inspector.
Godwin restated his original motion and it passed 3-2 with Godwin, Stough and Taunton voting yes and Brown and Carr voting no.
Stough said he remembered when the hotel drew people from around the region to dine there.
"I am a strong supporter of the hotel," Stough said. "I remember seeing pictures from 1928 with hundreds of people standing in the street. If we could get the hotel to open back up here in the city of Tallassee, that would be a big draw. I can see hundreds of people standing in the street to get in that hotel to eat. I am a strong supporter but safety is a big issue. I have been by the building and it has some damage to it."
Hammock said he understands the hotel’s historical value and its potential as a tourist attraction but his first concern is citizen safety.
Brooke Rigsby, the owner, and operator of Studio B near the hotel, said the structure makes her and her students feel unsafe.
"I am not for the hotel to be torn down either but I am for the hotel getting fixed,” Rigsby said. “I have had a business downtown for seven years, the dance studio, and I have hundreds of kids that come in and out each day. If that wall falls, that brick will end up in my parking lot. It could kill me or my dancers or my kids.
“I really hope the city does consider making him stick to that plan because we all know it's been sitting there for 10 years. You can look through the window and see the sky and there is metal flashing that flies around every day when the wind blows that I am afraid is going to fall off and hit me in the head.”
Residents and business owners in the area say debris, such as bricks, has begun to fall from the building, which is located adjacent to a well-frequented park in the area.
Hammock said a brick falling from the roof of a third-floor building can travel three times the distance it falls from.
"If the wall is 40 feet tall, a projectile can go 120 feet," Hammock said in a March work session.
Unsecured sheets of metal roofing also compromise citizen safety in the area.
In March, city officials granted Troupe a 45-day notice to make the needed structural repairs and an immediate notice to fix metal flashing hanging in sheets from the roof. Instead of making the repairs, Troupe asked city officials for a 60-day extension.
Fire struck the Hotel Talisi in October 2009. Afterward, Troupe put a tremendous amount of time and money into the hotel but bringing the facility up to code became more expensive than he anticipated.