City officials said Monday that it's unlikely that the owner of the Newcomb Hotel will pay for the demolition and cleanup at the site of Friday's fire.
Mayor Kyle Moore said Monday that Blick's Construction's demolition of the historic building at the intersection of Fourth and Maine streets could cost the city nearly $500,000. If the unpaid $500,000 loan the city gave owner Victor Horowitz in 2003 is taken into account, the city of Quincy will have spent $1 million on the Newcomb Hotel.
Public records show Horowitz, of Skokie, Ill., the principle owner of Newcomb Realty LLC, owes millions of dollars in back taxes to the state and federal government through various business holdings.
His nursing home properties in Cook and Champaign counties have been subject to foreclosure. Records show the U.S. Department of Housing and Development also fined him $40,000 for various violations.
Reached for comment Monday, Horowitz said that it would be inappropriate to speak about the hotel while he's still embroiled in litigation with the city.
"We can revisit this when the litigation (is) over," he said.
A Quincy Fire Department investigator determined Monday afternoon that while the fire was caused by some human intervention, he was unable to determine whether it was sent on purpose or on accident. The investigation is now in the hands of the Quincy Police Department.
The city of Quincy all but gave up hope that Horowitz would ever repay the nearly $500,000 loan that he took from the city to re-develop the long-dormant historic hotel. It began foreclosure proceedings in July and sued Newcomb Realty after a portion of the building collapsed during spring storms.
â??We kind of came to the conclusion that the building was the guarantee,â?? Bevelheimer said. â??Unfortunately there was nothing more tied to it other than the building itself. The idea of recovering from the loan, we came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to happen.â??
The city received an email from Horowitz Sunday where he disclosed that he was never able to secure insurance for the building due to its condition. KHQA obtained a copy of that email. In it, Horowitz said he couldn't get insurance due to the building's blighted condition.
"I heard that there is a suspicious...fire," he wrote. "I trust the police to investigate."
â??I think his businesses progressively went south over time,â?? Bevelheimer said of Horowitz. â??I think that's part of the reason why this whole Newcomb thing fell apart. It seemed like he was ready to go, but he just never pulled the trigger.â??
Real estate attorney Terry Anastas, who represents the city in its foreclosure suit against the hotel owner, said that the Newcomb Realty limited liability corporation appears to have no assets other than the hotel property. That means the prospects of recovering any money is slim. It also means that the city can't sue Horowitz directly.
â??Obviously that's a negative value when it comes to cleanup costs,â?? he said. â??It doesn't look optimistic that there would be any recovery for the city.â??
Now the city of Quincy will most likely shoulder the financial burden created by Friday's fire. Bevelheimer believes the city's liability insurance won't cover the cleanup and damage.
The city contacted six contractors over the weekend to contract for the emergency demolition. Only two expressed interest in the project. Moore said the city chose Blick's because it could get its equipment to the site the fastest.
How the city will pay for the demolition is still unknown. Bevelheimer said that decision rests in the hands of the city council that's expected to take up the issue at its regular council meeting Monday evening.
Mayor Moore says a possible way to pay could be through selling the bricks and other material from the building, but that will simply not cover everything.
Quincy police chief Rob Copely said there were costs that occurred through overtime hours for police officers over the weekend. He said as of Monday morning, these hours cost approximately $3,715 and will an additional $1,376 for each day officers are there in the future. Fire chief Joe Henning said overtime for the fire department cost around $4,500 for Friday night alone.
Chief Copely said investigators are in the interview process for determining a cause. Earlier on Monday, they looked into a possible suspect that also was being looked at for a series of dumpster fires. Copley said is was determined this possible suspect had an alibi for Friday night, and is no longer a suspect for the Newcomb fire.
Sixth Ward Ald. Dan Brink said the council is expected to discuss its options.
â??Any time you lose a cornerstone building in your historic district, it's not going to be a good day,â?? he said. â??It's too early to tell what's going to happen.â??
Demolition continued Monday with a focus on getting the crane moved from Fourth Street which is part of State Highway 24. Moore said the crane could be moved to the Maine Street side of the building as early as Tuesday.
â??We've been working with (the Illinois Department of Transportation),â?? Bevelheimer said. â??Obviously they're anxious for us to finish our work.â??
Former Quincy Mayor Chuck Scholz said that the early 1990s fire that destroyed the JCPenney building at the intersection of Sixth and Maine turned out to be something of a mixed blessing for downtown Quincy.
The fire came less than a week after the city announced that it found a Southeast Developer willing to refurbish the hotel. While he laments the loss of the Newcomb as one of the cornerstones of the Historic Quincy Business District, Scholz said it opens up the door to other opportunities.
â??Where JCPenney was is now the Maine Center,â?? he said. â??The Newcomb property is a good quality property. It's a key intersection and it's the front door for the city. Maybe somebody would take it and use it for something constructive. I guess that's the only positive way to look at all of this.â??