Aerial view of Ringgold devastationWatch raw aerial video footage of severe weather that hit Ringgold, Ga., Wednesday.
RINGGOLD, Ga. -- A Ringgold city judge ordered a tornado-ravaged hotel to be torn down, overriding an insurance company's claim that the building is still sound.
Judge Gene Lowery said in a Tuesday night hearing that the Baymont Inn & Suites had to come down and, if owner Ravindra Gajjar's insurance company -- Westfield Insurance -- wouldn't cooperate, the judge would subpoena it to court.
"It is an eyesore and we need to get something done," Lowery said.
Gajjar is one of the two hotel owners cited in September on a city nuisance ordinance. The citation claimed Gajjar and fellow hotel owner Naren Patel violated a city ordinance by leaving their buildings in disarray after the April 27 tornado destroyed them.
Hotel owners said the delay was caused by hold-ups getting insurance money for repairs.
In a previous hearing in October, Lowery gave both owners until Tuesday to begin cleanup or face city fines.
When Gajjar was asked Tuesday why repair work hasn't begun on his building, he told court officials his insurance wasn't going to pay for the building to be demolished and rebuilt. He said the company wanted him to rebuild it using the current foundation.
But Lowery said the building is unsafe and wrote an order stating it had to be demolished before it could be rebuilt. A copy of the order will be sent to Gajjar's insurance company.
Westfield Insurance, an Ohio-based company, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
"The city is doing a good job," said Viral Gajjar, the owner's son. "The city is willing to help us out."
Meanwhile, Patel, who owns three of the damaged hotels in town -- Quality Inn, Days Inn and Super 8 -- was given more time to continue cleanup.
Since the Quality Inn has been demolished and work has continued on the two other motels, Lowery said he decided to give Patel more time to finish.
The next hearing to decide if progress is being made was set for Feb. 5.
Joy Lukachick is a crime reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing down ...