Print Grand Hotel owners to sue Jerome
Written by Greg Ruland   
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 00:00

Town fire, code inspectors declared building unsafe and closed it to the public

Owners of a historic hotel in Jerome served notice on town officials Dec. 15 of their intention to sue the town and requested a Yavapai County Superior Court judge to order the building reopened.

Robert Altherr, owner of the Jerome Grand Hotel, which was closed by the town of Jerome on Dec. 8 due to alleged building code violations, explains Dec. 15 his frustration over dealings with the town’s fire and building officials. Altherr, whose family has operated the landmark hotel since 1996, said the actions have forced him to file a lawsuit against the town.The hotel was closed Dec. 9 after fire and building officials declared it unsafe to occupy.

On Monday, Dec. 20, Jerome Town Manager Candace Gallagher and Fire Chief Rusty Blair each declined to comment on the Jerome Grand Hotel’s legal action or the events leading up to it.

However, Gallagher issued a press release Dec. 8 stating the hotel “was deemed as unsafe by the town’s fire official and chief building code official, resulting in its closure following checkout of its guests.”

The closure means the hotel’s 10 employees will not have a job come Christmas, hotel owner Robert Altherr said. Altherr agreed to pay his staff until Christmas even though the hotel has no guests.

The closure came after town building officials revoked the hotel’s certificate of occupancy, originally issued in 1996 shortly before the historic building reopened for lodgers for the first time in more than 40 years, Altherr said. The hotel originally served as a hospital from the time it opened in 1927 until closing in 1950, he said.

“They have deemed the building unsafe but the truth is the Jerome Grand Hotel is one of the safest buildings in Jerome,” Altherr said. “Built virtually fireproof in 1926, in 1995 fire sprinkler and fire alarm systems were installed and both the town and the state approved the hotel to open in 1996.”

Altherr greeted reporters at the entrance to the hotel Dec. 15 just as videographers and producers of the Travel Channel show, “Ghost Adventures,” were setting up to film an episode.

By order of the town, Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Hall escorted the video crew inside the hotel, but would not allow it to film on the upper floors, where paranormal activity has been frequently reported, Altherr said.

The Arizona State Fire Marshal and Jerome Town Fire Marshal inspected the building for fire safety in 1996 and approved the same exits, exit signs, corridors and stairwells Blair faulted during court-ordered inspections in August.

The town was forced to obtain a search warrant after Altherr stopped an inspection in July before it was concluded.

Altherr said he objected to the inspection because Blair wanted to go into areas of the hotel which would normally not be open to inspection and test the safety of electrical wiring without the proper credentials to do so.

After the August inspection, the town directed Altherr to make a number of improvements, including widening the driveway in front of the hotel and creating a turn-around area that could accommodate fire trucks. Altherr said he was forced to eliminate several parking spots as a result.

“We resolved all but a few issues with the Jerome Fire Department and building department,” he said. “In our attempt to have these disagreements heard, we have been silenced, criminally charged and now formally shut down.”

Although Blair allegedly told Altherr the hotel would not be shut down during the busy season, town officials decided to revoke the certificate of occupancy one week prior to a Dec. 15 meeting scheduled to work out any further issues, Altherr said.

Altherr said the hotel halted construction of renovations months ago and did not require permits to proceed as alleged by the town. He also claimed he resolved all of the building inspector’s concerns except hiring an architect to redraw plans for the entire building, plans which are not required when only building renovations are proposed.