Tenants kicked out of ‘unsafe’ Bergmann Hotel, manager arrested

Time ran out for the tenants of the Bergmann Hotel Friday afternoon, as Juneau police officers escorted them out of the building, which had been classified as unsafe for human occupancy.

Many tenants, even those who were aware that the city had posted a 24-hour notice the day before, were in disbelief as they hauled their belongings down the stairs or — in one case — tossed them from the third-story fire exit into the bed of a pickup truck below.

“It’s cold as hell out there,” said James Cole, who had just paid his rent the day before. “It’s a bad time to be kicking people out. … The Bergmann is all we’ve got. Now we’ve got nowhere to go.”

Chris Clark said he couldn’t go to The Glory Hole because of his drinking.

“If you ask me to surrender my bottle, then good luck,” he said. “I’m a drunk. … I don’t have anyplace to go.”

By 5 p.m., Clark had collapsed just inside the lobby and police arranged for him to be picked by Rainforest Recovery.

Manager Charles Cotten was led away in handcuffs for failing to abide by the notice, which mandated that the violations be corrected or the building vacated by 4 p.m.

“It was his responsibility,” said Juneau Police Department Chief Bryce Johnson. “He was supposed to have the place safe, or everyone out.”

[This gritty ex-con rebuilt his life. Now, he’s trying to rebuild the Bergmann.]

The more than century-old historic hotel was condemned after the building owners, Kathleen and James Barrett, failed to address outstanding fire and building code violations, putting tenants in imminent danger, city spokeswoman Lisa Phu said in a press release.

“There is so much damage and neglect. It’s a huge risk for the tenants in terms of fire and life safety issues; not just for them but for anyone who goes inside,” Sven Pearson, Capital City Fire/Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal, said. “People shouldn’t have to live this way. It’s unsanitary. It’s dangerous. People deserve to live better.”

According to the city, health and safety hazards within the public areas and basement include an inoperable sprinkler system, a gaping hole in the roof, lack of heat and hot water, inadequate restrooms, exposed wiring, broken windows and unsuitable emergency exit doors.

In October 2016, the City and Borough of Juneau and CCFR issued letters to Bergmann Hotel owner Kathleen Barrett and building staff citing multiple code violations and details on how to make corrections, Phu said in the press release. Building management originally had until Nov. 18, 2016, to become compliant. At Barrett’s request, the deadline was extended to the end of February 2017. Inspections in March revealed few corrections and several new violations.

“We’ve been generous with giving an extension and keeping an eye on the place. This was not an overnight decision; we’ve been trying to work with them for a long time,” CBJ Building Codes Official Charlie Ford said.

[With upcoming changes to derelict hotel, uncertainty lingers for tenants]

According to Ford, he did note during a walk-through Friday that some sheetrock repair had been done and the toilets were operable.

But the hole in the roof remained, along with issues with the boiler, including carbon monoxide detected in the boiler room.

“We couldn’t find any hot water in any of the sinks,” Ford said.

“What pushed us over the edge was the sprinklers,” he said, explaining that the broken skylight caused a pipe to freeze, which damaged a sprinkler head.

The sprinkler system, which Bergmann staff say has been fixed, has not been certified since November 2015, Ford said.

“We had been putting (this process) off because we were all hoping for the best,” he said.

Under Title 19, CBJ’s building and fire code, the city requires property owners to abate public health and safety hazards.

“When the hazards on the property are so extreme that it represents an imminent danger to health and safety, we have the authority under Title 19 to require the building be evacuated,” City Attorney Amy Mead said.

The violations must be corrected before the building can be deemed safe for human occupancy; the order can be appealed within 20 days of when it was issued.

Through Tuesday morning, The Salvation Army will operate a low-barrier warming center for a handful of Bergmann tenants. They are in need of donations, however; to donate, go online to http://juneau.salvationarmy.org/.

 


• Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or liz.kellar@juneauempire.com.


 

Tamee Martini 13 days ago
I realize that the ''Berg was in ultra poor condition, but not as poor as the conditions that most of those tenants will NOW face. My fervent prayer is that it does not take someone expiring from the freezing cold, before someone does something other than forcefully relocate these people. 
DEBBIE WHITE 13 days ago
The fire chief says the CO detector CCFR has had never taken a higher reading than what they found there. Look up carbon monoxide poisoning. It's very likely lives were saved. Thank you to the Salvation Army for stepping up with a temporary warming shelter. I hope you find enough volunteers to make this work until temperatures are warmer and more solutions can be brought online. The fact is, even though it was a necessary action, any animosity should be directed towards the property owner, not the local government enforcing laws. The owners had plenty of warning. CO levels can rise exponentially in a short period of time.
Billy Devine 13 days ago
come on i tell the truth and you won't except it?
Billy Devine 13 days ago
This paper is delusional..
Billy Devine 13 days ago
You are weirdo Juneau person moderating this.......
Billy Devine 13 days ago
Whoever runs this newspaper is a complete idiot and the people that work at this new paper are complete Juneau Idiot savants....
H. E. 12 days ago
Regardless of who you want to "blame" for the Bergman evictions, we are now faced with people who are the most at risk and in need of a safe warm place. They just banned the homeless from camping down town, so why don't we take that big empty wal-mart/Kmart building and make a real homeless shelter  and safe in-patient drug treatment facility that Juneau desperatly needs? 
Heather O'Claray 11 days ago
Sure. You buy it and do that. It's private property. Are you going to pay the heat, lights, water, sewer, taxes, mortgage, insurance, permitting, and remodel fees? 
Richard Phillips 12 days ago
The empire should report on how much was collected each week from these people that had nowhere else to go.
They had no compunctions about kicking people out that could not afford their rates 
Michael Haase 12 days ago
The Bergmann has 42 rooms, charging a minimum $600 per month. Lets assume only 2/3 of them were rentable, and rented. Most of the staff worked in exchange for free rent. So, if 27 (roughly 2/3) of the rooms were rented for $600 a month - a bare minimum figure - that is $16,200 in rent coming in a month. Are the Barrett's trying to say that they couldn't make basic repairs with any of that money? I rent a room from my employer in a home they own. It's very basic, but I only pay $300 a month. And they keep the utilities and the heat on. Since the Bergmann was essentially public housing, I as a member of this community would like to know where all of their tenants rent money was going. I feel terrible for the tenants, including one good friend of mine. But for the Barrett family, I say this was long overdue. 
Heather O'Claray 11 days ago
And how much is his mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, etc., etc., etc.? Everyone wants to look at gross revenue and expect landlords are rich. I don't know the books of the Bergman but I doubt the owners had $16k/mo "extra". Most landlords want to stay in business. Assuming they are acting rationally, of course. Now they have no business. 
TOM RUTECKI 12 days ago
JE is there a new policy on posting comments now where you do not have to use your real name and register with the paper there's a couple commenting here they're clearly are not using their real names
JAN KRIEGEL 11 days ago
I think it's okay as long as one's pseudonym is misspelled.
ken dunker 11 days ago
Time to sell. No money generated in the foreseeable future.
The well is dry.
[removed] 11 days ago
This comment has been deleted
Heather O'Claray 11 days ago
It wasn't a surprise. The City has been reaching out to the tenants for some time. At what point do they have to take responsibility for themselves? 
Michelle Strickler 10 days ago
I'm so thankful for the work Salvation Army does for our city's most vulnerable.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, on behalf of Juneau.  I hope someone with some intelligence and commitment to Juneau buys the Bergman, makes the needed repairs and it opens again quickly.  Maybe this will be a wake-up call to the owners to run their business more professionally.  
Ernie Bird 10 days ago
I know three person that are now homeless because of this, for one I am glade they arrested the owners, for failure,

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