Reports Reveal Public Safety Concerns with Lubbock Hotel - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/31/05

Reports Reveal Public Safety Concerns with Lubbock Hotel

The Holiday Inn Express was built about three years ago and reports NewsChannel 11 has read reveal big problems. The owner denies there is anything wrong with the hotel and are still open for business.

The Holiday Inn Express may look fine from the outside, but mounds of reports say something else about this hotel built three years ago. Last summer, structural engineer Rusty Thoma exposed design flaws. He was testifying in a lawsuit. Contractor DARCO, a business from Oklahoma, sued Holiday Inn Express owner Tim Bahkta for breach of contract last year. Back then it was over money, but that lawsuit starting a series of events that exposed problems with the construction itself.

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Thoma, who's projects include the Mormon Temple, the Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church and the Science Spectrum in Lubbock, evaluated the architect plans for the Holiday Inn Express. He found problems with the foundation, floor capacity loads, problems that could put hotel guests at risk.

"If we were to put maximum floor loads inside the building, there's a few areas where the floors joists would be overloaded. One ares in particular where it would be close to collapse, if not technically collapsing," said Thoma.

In other words: the second floor joists are holding too much weight. It's the area right above the lobby area. "On a heavy Texas Tech football weekend in Lubbock, would you recommend to your friends and family to stay and the Holiday Inn Express?" asked NewsChannel 11. "We've discussed it already and they're not staying at the Holiday Inn Express any more," responded Thoma.

Now the city of Lubbock is involved....hiring it's own engineer to evaluate the report conducted by Thoma. NewsChannel 11 obtained a copy of that report and it sites many building code violations that are "very detrimental to the life, safety, health and welfare of the public."

Building inspector Steve O'Neil says the city has informed Bahkta and his attorney of the findings and will discuss what needs to be done to correct the problem. "One of this first goals will be to have it vacated or have them voluntarily close for remodeling," said O'Neil.

However, in a statement issued to NewsChannel 11 by Bahkta's attorney Dulan Elder, "the life safety concerns sited in each report are simply allegations." This report was based "solely on a review of the plans...and that the plans used to construct the Lubbock Holiday Inn Express were approved by the Holiday Inn franchisor and by the city of Lubbock."

The city says it is giving the owner a chance to voluntarily fix these problems, and if they don't the city will take charge of the hotel. The city says Bahkta has until February 24th to let the city know of their plans.

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