April 02, 2020

Hope Amid Ruins, Area Companies Struggle to Help> Lodging; Motels too full to give everyone shelter

BANGOR — Ginny Manwiller, a front-desk clerk at the Howard Johnson Motel in Bangor, said she couldn’t remember a tougher weekend on the job. It was not the busy days that bothered her, although the 58-room facility on the Odlin Road was packed with ice storm refugees from Friday through Monday.

Manwiller said the sad job of turning away dozens of desperate people Friday and Saturday “made me feel like a frustrated social worker.”

Manwiller of Bangor said she stood by the telephone all day Friday and Saturday, constantly telling people there literally was no room at the inn.

It was a scene familiar to dozens of desk clerks and managers at motels in the Greater Bangor area, who reported their facilities were beginning to empty Monday after a hectic weekend when they packed nearly every room with local families seeking shelter from the historic ice-out.

“It’s been madness,” said Audrey Peavey, front-desk manager at the Ramada Inn, Bangor. “We’re loving it but wish the full occupancy were for a different reason.” The 114-room motel was packed Friday and Saturday and was 90 percent full Sunday.

For Manwiller, the key frustration last weekend was an inability to help people whose desperation was almost palpable.

People would call or stop in, mostly adult children looking for warmth and safety for their elderly parents, Manwiller said. The Howard Johnson Motel connects to a restaurant, and has an indoor walkway. The walkway appeals to older people whose more fragile bones cannot afford a slip on the ice.

“Then I’d look out the window and see them driving up and down the road out front, looking for empty rooms,” Manwiller said.

Ed Langlois, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association, said a lack of power closed many motels in central and western Maine during the height of the ice storm. Others stayed open with generators.

In Bangor, most motels remained open and were filled to capacity, said Langlois who spent the weekend calling hotels and motels througout the state.

The Holiday Inn on the Odlin Road — the largst hotel in Bangor — was full Friday, Saturday and Sunday, said manager Brett Stacey. The 207-room facility served “mostly people from the Hermon, Hampden and outlying areas,” Stacey said.

The 125-room Twin City Motor Inn in Brewer reported a half-full occupancy rate Monday afternoon. The facility had been full all weekend, however, said owner John Robinson.

The 50-room Penobscot Inn in Bangor was full of storm victims last weekend and expected to be full Monday night with line workers imported to Maine to help re-establish electric power.

Some hotels, such as the 122-room Holiday Inn on Main Street, Bangor, were expecting full houses through the middle of the week. The hotel still housed a lot of power-outage families Monday, but most of the visitors Tuesday are attendees of the Governor’s Conference on Tourism scheduled Jan. 14-15 at the Bangor Civic Center.

“I bet this conference will be packed, even if it’s only to see the governor scramble to explain the storm,” said one desk clerk who asked not to be identified.

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