Residents Anxious as City Mulls Condemning Motel

Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage.
Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

About two-dozen residents of a motel that was seized by the Municipality of Anchorage recently, may soon be looking for a new place to live. They have not been evicted yet, but the city says that will likely happen because of unsanitary conditions.

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Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage.
Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

When Sonya Savok got back to her apartment in room 305 of the Big Timber Motel after having a baby earlier this month she heard that city officials had paid a visit.

“Municipality first came when I was actually in the hospital giving birth to my 19-day-old,” Savok said. “And when they gave the notices for inspection I was at the hospital with my daughter’s two-week appointment.”

The visit worried her. She pays $800 a month for a one bedroom apartment that she shares with her brother and her three young girls, 4-year-old Ruby, 2-year-old Neveah and newborn Emerald. Savok has lived in the apartment since September. The officials returned this week, posted notices on doors and did an inspection. She says the apartment was the best she could find.

“There’s not heat or hot water. I’ve still been having to pay $800 a month,” Savok said. “You know I live here because there isn’t much people that’s willing to work with limited income so I settled for this place.”

Down a dank hallway covered in scraps of old carpet, 68-year-old Shirley Bates thought she’d finally found a place she could call home when she moved into room 707 at the back of the motel about nine months ago. But when inspectors with the city showed up and posted a notice on her door recently they crushed her hope.

“Two people knocked on the door and said that the Municipality of Anchorage had just taken over and that we had three or four days to move out,” Bates said. “Pounded on the doors, two gentlemen. And I said well I just paid rent. I don’t have any place to move. And they said, well that’s not our problem.”

Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage.
Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

Bates has two artificial hips and uses a walker. She pays $675 a month for her small room. If the building is condemned, she’s worried she won’t find another place she can afford.

“The rents are like up to 11 and 12-hundred dollars at other hotels,” Bates said. “I can’t afford that. There’s no way.”

Beside its dingy appearance, building inspectors describe Dickonsonian conditions at the motel near strip clubs across from Merrill Field. Lindsey Whitt, a spokesperson for Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s office says inspectors looked at the building Tuesday and posted a list of violations:

“The lack of heat and hot water in the building; the concern that the fire sprinkler system pipes may freeze,” Whitt said. “The electric space heaters that they’re using to heat the area and the stoves that they’re boiling water with are primary heat sources for the units, that’s very dangerous; and then we found bedbugs in every single room and mice and vole infestation.”

A task force met Wednesday to discuss the property. Whitt says officials are reviewing whether to condemn the building. The owner of the Big Timber Motel, Terry Stahlman, owes about $34,000 in back taxes, Whitt says.

Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage.
Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

Officials say that there were no smoke detectors in the building, so the Municipality purchased and installed smoke detectors. No other upgrades are being made at this time. Whitt says the municipality is trying to figure out what’s next.

“We are working with social services and trying to make arrangements, calling around to see their availability and how we move people from this building if it gets much colder,” Whitt said.

As of Thursday afternoon, neither Bates nor Savok had heard from anyone with social services about other possible living options. Savok says she’s worried.

“I’m kinda worried, but you know I pray every day,” Savok said. “The Lord always have our side, our back. I believe everything will come through.”

Officials say they will make a decision on whether to condemn the building and evict residents in the coming weeks. There are 24 known tenants at the Big Timber Motel, nine of them children.