The Board of Health Commissioners voted Thursday to allow the Holiday Inn at 476 Holiday Drive to reopen, 10 days after a fire in one of the boiler rooms led the commission to order its closure.
“The purpose for the hearing is good news,” said Town Health Officer John Paul Faignant. “We received today from the state Mr. Patrick Banks’ certification that the property can be reoccupied pursuant to NFPA 101.”
In Rutland Town, the Select Board is also the Board of Health Commissioners. Faignant is a Select Board member, but as Town Health Officer he doesn’t vote on commission matters. At the end of the emergency meeting, the board voted 4-0 in favor of allowing the hotel to reopen. Faignant abstained while Selectman Joe Denardo appeared via phone.
On Sept. 30, firefighters were summoned to the Holiday Inn at approximately 9 p.m. for a reported smell of propane. A guest placed the call. Shortly after firefighters arrived there was an explosion and subsequent fire in one of the boiler rooms, which was quickly brought under control. Damage was limited to the boiler room and an adjacent laundry room, but the hotel was left without hot water, which prompted the health commission to order its closure and trigger inspections by the Division of Fire Safety.
Gerald “GJ” Garrow, regional manager of the Division of Fire Safety’s Rutland office, said at the Thursday meeting, there are only two minor items the hotel has left to complete, one is digging up and repairing a leaky gas line, the other is addressing issues with a pool heater.
“We have already started digging,” said Uday Dholakia, general manager of the Holiday Inn. “The gas company was here and they marked the propane line. Dig Safe came in — we’ve dug out about 100 feet into the building.”
He said a new heater for the pool has been ordered, and he’s driving to Massachusetts on Friday to pick it up himself. “It will be on site today,” Dholakia said.
“It appears to me they’ve met all the conditions of the health order, except that I be given a copy of the transmittal letter sending my order and the Fire Marshal’s report from the Sept. 30 event to the insurance company,” Faignant said.
Frank Urso, attorney for Holiday Inn, with the Rutland firm Reis Urso & Ewald Law Offices, said his clients have that letter and will supply the town with a copy.
“Based on that, I recommend to the board that we allow occupancy at the Holiday Inn,” Faignant said.
Urso thanked the board for calling an emergency meeting to address the matter.
“We apologize for the circumstances that have brought us here. We do want you to know that despite press reports, management and employees of the hotel jumped on this problem as soon as guests reported it,” said Urso. “Our guy thought he had found a leak at the ice machine and quickly found out, along with the guest, that the leak persisted and the smell persisted. The guest was saying that we should call the fire department; we agreed wholeheartedly. While she was calling the fire department, we were calling Irving Oil to come in and fix the emergency.”
He said inn staff didn’t act “cavalierly” or “negligently.”
“We, through the guest together, called the fire department because we understood the nature of the emergency,” Urso said.
Board members still had concerns.
Faignant said he still has many people left to interview for his report as health officer and asked if inn staff would be cooperative. Urso said they would.
Urso said the Holiday Inn has successfully relocated guests to other hotels, but can’t continue to do so any longer. He said there’s also been an impact on many of the hotel’s hourly employees.
“We’ve had issues down there over and over again, the roof leaks, this has been going on a long time,” said Town Fire Chief Christopher Clark. “I just want to make sure, like (Faignant) said, this is not going to be a constant issue with us going down there. We’re taking guys out of work to go down there for basically nuisance calls.”
Dholakia said many of the nuisance issues have been addressed and will be kept from recurring.
Selectwoman Sharon Russell said she’s glad the problems have been fixed, but was still not pleased with how the incident was handled.
“I don’t excuse that we might have had four firemen dead,” she said. “We might have had people there dead, there’s no excuse for that whatsoever.”
“The other night when I came in, I knew nothing about this, when we had a meeting, (Clark) was sitting outside, his face was snow white, I said ‘You’re lookin’ rough,’ he said, ‘We’ve had a rough night,’” Russell said. “So to you I’m saying, yes, you’ve got people out of work, you could have dead people, you’re going to their funerals, so don’t explain to me, ‘We got it done.’ I expect it done. And if it isn’t done, I expect (Faignant) to close you down and this town back him 100%.”
She said the next time there’s a suspected propane leak, to call the fire department immediately, and to address issues like leaks in the roof as they’re discovered.
Board Chairman Joshua Terenzini said the decision to shut the Holiday Inn down wasn’t made lightly and was done for safety reasons.
“I very much support (Faignant) for what he did. He brought us in front of hard reality, and we now know there’s no tolerance for any little issue. We were very fortunate there were no casualties. This could have been a lot worse, and we thank our stars there were no casualties,” Dholakia said.