Forge motel residents left in cold when power turned off

Feb. 02, 2013 @ 06:51 AM

Residents of a motel along Pine Mountain Road just off the Parkway were without power and heat on Friday, but it was turned back on aroiund 8:30 p.m.

Serviuce was cut off to the motel at about 2:30 p.m. atr the direction of the operson paying the bill. 

The property, once used as a motel but now primarily a home for local people, is one of several in the immediate area that were associated with hotel magnate Ken Seaton. Its current owner could not be determined at press time despite efforts by The Mountain Press and Pigeon Forge police. However a representatuive of the owner got the power turned back on Friday night.

"I'm beginning to think it's not a very nice place," said Phillip Reynolds, who lives at the motel with his wife and 8-year-old grandson. He was one of about 20 residents who gathered in the motel's parking lot Friday afternoon after the power went off.

"I'm working as hard as possible to get the power turned back on," said building manager James Roberts. "This is a great injustice to a lot of people."

The two-story building sits directly behind the four-story Grand Inns hotel, 3206 Parkway. Business stationery identifies the motel as the Economy Inn: The Two Story.

On Wednesday, Roberts said, a representative of the motel's lessee verbally told him that the power would be turned off on Friday. Roberts notified tenants door to door.

Of the motel's 60 habitable units, 25 are occupied. Among the tenants are pregnant women and about 20 children, Roberts said.

The National Weather Service at Morristown predicted a low of 18 early Saturday morning.

"My concern is these people," said Police Chief Jack Baldwin, referring to the motel residents. "We want to keep them as comfortable as possible."

Tenants at the motel live week to week. Most pay their rent "like clockwork," Roberts said. "For a lot of people, it's the last resort. They live paycheck to paycheck."

Rent is $150-$200 per week. More expensive units include kitchenettes.

There is one electric meter for the property, and restoring power required a $2,000 deposit, said Allen Robbins, secretary/treasurer with Sevier County Electric System.

"I've enjoyed living here," said resident Lorie Jones. She and her husband, Robert Jones, moved to Pigeon Forge from Frankfurt, Ky., in September. "We just wanted to make a new start."

"Everything was booming" when the couple moved here, Lorie Jones said. "We didn't know business would go down, and then we couldn't afford to move."

"Once you move in, it's kind of hard to leave," said resident Linda Covington.

By 5 p.m. Friday, some residents were loading belongings into cars and driving away. Reynolds arranged to move into another motel nearby.

"Nobody wants to live like this," said Jones. "You don't do this to people."

kburns@themountainpress.com