One month after the Polaris Hotel in Nome burned to the ground, the investigation report has not yet been finalized, but the building wreckage is currently being removed.
During a recent City Council meeting earlier this week, Nome Chief of Police John Papasadora explained how the remains of the Polaris building are hazardous to public safety.
“As long as it’s standing, people are going to try to get in there, because there is alcohol that remains on that premises. Even though most of it has been destroyed, a lot of it is buried; somebody is going to try to get in there to find it. So far we’ve had four break-ins from kids that have gone in there to get beer out of the liquor store, whatever they can reach through the hole. I cut the top of my head looking in the hole, looking for kids who were trying to steal beer out of the place. You need to realize that it’s not just an abatement issue, this is an extreme safety issue.”
Nome Joint Utility Manager John Handeland also took issue with the Polaris debris, but for different reasons.
“I’m not as concerned from my perspective about people getting in there; I am concerned about the blowing debris. Twice I’ve had to dispatch people on the weekend to get tin and that type of stuff up from getting into the power lines, and we would encourage that to be resolved.”
According to City Manager Tom Moran, removing the wreckage has become convoluted due to all the parties involved, such as the owners of Polaris who are located in Anchorage, the insurance company, and the private contractors.
“So I told Mr. Reader and Mr. West that we would have to subcontract with them to haul the debris from the site to the monofill and that the City would just, as we always do, we don’t make a profit, we just charge time, labor and materials when we do a nuisance abatement and then we send the bill. Just because the insurance company announced that they would pay X, didn’t mean that the City’s bill would be under X, because we have to use subcontractors this year, because (our) trucks are being used for snow removal.”
Under a nuisance abatement, Moran says the City can demolish the Polaris site on December 26th if a contractor hasn’t done the work before then.
Councilman Stan Anderson responded by saying it shouldn’t be up to the City to pay the insurance company or handle the removal of the Polaris debris.
“Instead of beating our gums on this anymore, why don’t we have a special meeting, declare an emergency, tear the damn thing down, get rid of it and send a bill to the insurance company or the owners, and if they don’t pay, then we take them to court. We solve the Chief’s problem, the public’s problem, and get it done. $20,000 is probably cheaper than a lawsuit if some kid ended up getting hurt.”
At this point, it seems like Anderson’s call for an emergency declaration did expedite the removal process.
According to the City, Q Trucking was awarded the contract to demolish, remove, and haul away the Polaris wreckage by December 26th. Q Trucking began its demolition work at the site yesterday.
In terms of what originally caused the Polaris Hotel to burn down, the investigation into the fire has essentially concluded, but Papasadora says the report is still being put together by the various entities involved.
It is unclear as to when the findings will be released.
Image at top: What remains of the Polaris is being demolished and removed by Q Trucking. Photo Credit: Davis Hovey, KNOM (2017).