By Raoul Bataller
MOORE HAVEN, FL (Friday, April 15) — A state fire marshal’s report is expected to conclude that arsonists destroyed the Glades Inn last Monday morning. An insuror's report is also expected to tell whether the county's coverage included the Glades Inn, and whether the county benefits from the fire.
It was a building that was given up as hopeless after being examined by former Asst. County Manager Larry Hilton, an authority on building codes, who years ago advised against picking it up in tax deeds. Commissioners several years ago at that time, Donna Storter and Paul Beck, were so told, in this reporter's recollection. They went ahead recently acquiring it, and without any effort at further examin- ing it, advertised and expected local bidders to flock to it.
There was very little discussion to connect the dots, such as the need for a place for teachers from any of three participating junior colleges to stay over who had business at the Training center under construc- tion, or housing for some of the corrections or ambulance/paramedic employees employed nearby. No one suggested to the bidders, whose funding comes from a cheap hotel in a beach-front hotel on the Red Sea, that Glades county doesn’t need a place for any one night stands.
But the property is one of the few in the area that is not entangled in zoning or permitting hassles, and it has an excellent location. A little sales effort might have changed the landscape around here.
A very strange bid did come from a Miami lawyer fronting for interests in Israel.
The bid was low, and the the bidder showed no interest in Glades tourism. Storter, Beck and compa- ny seized on and locked down the bid without delay, without knowing even whether the bidder they had on the line was American. Ten days were requested by the bidder for examination. That would have ended about Sunday, April 10. Things then moved very abruptly, faster than locals usually move.
At 5:30 p.m. that Sunday a fire was reported in the Glades Inn, and firefighters contained it. There was no lightning, no electrical connections in the building that could have started it. At a few minutes before 2 a.m. Ahern's cameras across the street picked up a slight glow. When the camera next looked 10 minutes later, the concrete building was totally engulfed in flames. Few locals, outside the profes- sionals in the area who do all the burning on cane fields for the owners, handle fire that efficiently
Storter and Beck were mum on the matter at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.
“On the hotel,” said Commissioner John Ahern, ‘I guess you know what happened there, but hope- fully the bidder that we're dealing with wanted to tear it down, and certainly today it’s a lot cheaper to demolish it than it was a couple of days ago. All of our firemen, and those from surrounding counties, did a lot of work there. It was a tough deal. Wasn't much to save. A matter of cleanup. But hopefully it'll be a positive for us.”
The demolition probably will have to begin soon to avoid the liability of all that charred concrete block standing so high in the area. While the county has ample road equipment, it's not that well equipped for removal of concrete block demolition. The trucks to haul it would be expensive.
Glades firefighters and medics included John Biggs, Steve Anderson, Doug Manke, Bill Matchekosky, Danny Beard, Jack Bayless, Heather Quiroz, Daryl Lewis, Johnny Wilkerson, Sheldon Barriqullo, Gerald Watson Jr., Jeremy Ballard, Jimmy Summeralls, Bob Jones, Marissa Shivers, Angie Cosgrove, Isaac Mucklow, Rick Brown, Lisa Watson.