by Ken Shmidheiser
It didn’t take long for the City of Somerset to begin taking unusual advantage of its latest property acquisition, the Economy Inn—formerly Somerset Court—at 422 Monticello Street south of Oak Hill Road.
The sight of a complement of Somerset firemen in full attire including breathing masks, and surrounded by pumper, ladder and other support vehicles, might have fooled passersby into thinking at a blaze had engulfed the landmark motel-apartment complex. However there was no danger posed by flames and smoke billowing from the building.
“It gave us the opportunity for a controlled burn to help train some of our newer firemen,” explained Pulaski County Safety Director Tiger Robinson who helped coordinate Monday’s training session.
Weather permitting, next week a demolition crew is expected to begin razing buildings on the 2.5-acre site.
“Once it’s cleared, the property will be graded and seeded,” explained Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler. “As part of an economic development project, the city recently purchased the property from the Patel family in Florence for $150,000. We feel it was a good deal since the site was appraised for $300,000 and included more land than we originally thought.
“Under an agreement with Somerset Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility which owns the adjoining property, the city will clear and seed the land, and then we will sell it to them for construction of an assisted care facility.”
The transaction is expected to be completed early next year.
Girdler noted that the project is one of several where the City of Somerset has purchased blighted properties and transformed them into parks our used them for other beneficial purposes.
Before Somerset Court Motel was built by A.C. Baker in 1943 with 17 units, numbered 1 through 18, but skipping No. 13. The property had been the site of a skating rink that had burned. An addition to the motel was built in 1951 bringing to 35 the total number of units. At the time of its construction, the complex was located on the old South U.S. 27.
In its prime, Somerset Court Motel served as lodging for a hosts of guests including businessmen, tourists, soldiers, travelers, etc.
When the new U.S. 27—the “Truck Route”—was built, a small road was built from the motel to the new four-lane to help offset the loss of traffic on old 27.
In recent years, the property had fallen from its glory days and had become the site of meth lab fires and raids by local lawmen.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will allow the property to be transformed into a good use,” Girdler said.