It’s been about five days since Grand Forks city administrators declared the Ambassador Motel unsafe to live in, and while some residents have already found other places to live, others still aren’t sure. At least one isn’t ready to leave at all.
City inspectors found a host of safety problems at the motel late last month and, on Friday, April 9, gave residents there 48 hours to leave. City staff later extended that deadline to the morning of Tuesday, April 13. Despite that, some residents have moved slowly as they figure out where they’ll live next, and others hope to stay as long as they can.
The city has yet to act beyond that declaration, but inspectors have noted tenants still living in the building each day this week, according to Brandon Boespflug, Grand Forks’ building inspection director.
“It's in the city attorney's hands on what next steps will be taken,” Boespflug told the Herald on Wednesday morning.
City Attorney Dan Gaustad on Wednesday did not respond to queries from the Herald as to whether remaining tenants would be removed from the motel by law enforcement, or where they would be relocated.
Some Ambassador residents have already left. Others spent the past few days packing their belongings, and many aren’t sure where they’d go.
“Somewhere better,” resident Brad Reed said on Tuesday night. He lives in a room with friend Mike Lee for about $540 per month. They’ve been there since late January. They heard a rumor that there was a two-bedroom apartment to be had for less than they were paying at the Ambassador, but it wasn’t clear if either would get a paycheck in time to take advantage of it.
Wednesday, they also weren’t sure when they need to be out of the Ambassador. City staff stapled notices to each door of the motel declaring it unsafe to occupy, but the notices don’t give a deadline to leave and further communication from the city has apparently been spotty. Several residents also weren’t sure when, exactly, they need to be gone.
“One day, it would be like, we’re going to be out of here, then maybe we won’t be out of here,” Lee said.
Courtney and her fiance, Martin – both were reluctant during an interview to provide their last names – said they don’t have anywhere to go.
“We’re kind of just hanging on to … whatever we can,” Courtney said. “We’ve been cleaning up some rooms to try and stay one more night because we don’t know where we’ll go from here.”
At least one resident there is against moving out. Richard Charette, a maintenance worker at the Ambassador who has lived at the motel on and off for about four years, has been busy making repairs there this week.
“We’re not the richest hotel, but we’re going to try to get it to where the city agrees and we agree and everybody’s happy,” he said as he emptied trash cans into the motel’s dumpster. “You can’t do everything all in one day. ... Soon enough, if they give us a little time, we’ll get everything prepared and people maybe come back at a cheap price.”
Charette isn’t sure where he’ll go if he’s forced to leave, but he is clear that he doesn’t want to live at Northlands Rescue Mission. City staff handed out business cards for Sue Shirek, the mission’s executive director, when they stapled the notices to each resident’s door last week.
“It’s not a bad place,” Charette said of the mission. “But I figure I want to be on my own.”
At present, it is unclear what will happen to the motel. It has not been condemned to be torn down, but is facing multiple building, fire and health code violations. Those violations need to be rectified before occupancy can be restored, which Boespflug said he and other city department heads told the building’s trustee, Kenton McGregor, at a meeting last week.
But addressing code violations is only part of what is needed to be done to allow tenants to stay there. City officials aren’t clear on the nature of the motel, which is renting rooms for longer periods of time than a motel, and that nudges it closer to being an apartment building. The business does not have the necessary permits for either operation.
Still, Boespflug didn’t leave demolishing the building off the table, though he said his office only deals with the inspection side of matters.
“This building we have not condemned. That is certainly a potential down the road, through a legal process, but that's that's beyond my office,” he said.