UPDATE: 8 PM May 25: The charitable organizations that will briefly cover power bills at two Gatlinburg motels have been identified as the Gatlinburg Community Police Program and the Gatlinburg Firefighters Association.
Sevier County Electric System says they've stepped up to pay for 10 days of power at Creekside Inn and Ski View Motel, where power was turned off this week for extended non-payment by the landlords. When power was cut off, the city said tenants had to get out.
Power, however, still will be shut off June 4.
The forced outage underscores the lack of low-income housing in Gatlinburg, a community that relies on hundreds of people for the service industry.
"Lately here, I just left my office and someone walked in trying to get a room," Alex Abrahams, a local landlord said. "So I would say it's about three to five a day, but that's just the local residents."
Because soon the town will also fill up with international workers also looking for affordable places to live.
"So I have sponsors calling me from around the world and say 'Alex, I need rooms for 20 students,'" Abrahams said. "Whatever that number is, I'm like, I don't have it."
Local leaders are aware of the lack of affordable housing. The City of Gatlinburg says it works with the Sevier County Economic Development Council, which works to recruit developers. The city also says as a resort community, land values are high, and that can make it difficult for attracting developers.
PREVIOUS STORY: The City of Gatlinburg said Thursday that charitable organizations, in cooperation with Sevier County Electric System, have come forward and paid to reestablish electricity to the Creekside and Ski View Motels for 10 days in order to allow tenants time to find new housing.
The city said it will notify residents that they have until June 4 to find a new place to live. Power will be cut off on that date.
People living there will not have access to the building after June 4 because City Building and Fire Codes do not allow occupancy of multi-family units without electricity.
Structures are considered unsafe without functioning smoke detectors, fire alarms, exit lights, and hot water.
The current owners, Maury and Joan Greenstein of Ohio, sent a letter to current renters Tuesday saying the prior landlord who had leased the low-income motel property, Stuart Kaplow, had died several days ago.
According to the Greensteins, who had a long association with Kaplow, there were several issues that needed to be resolved in the wake of his death, including paying for power.
Records show a pattern of disputes between Kaplow and Gatlinburg and Ohio officials over upkeep of numerous motel properties.
The Smoky Mountain Rescue Ministry was offering temporary help to residents of the two motels.
According to Tuesday's letter, Kaplow had been subleasing rooms in the property to several families and individuals and offering weekly rentals.
The letter said the Greensteins were working with Sevier County Electric System (SCES) after it announced intentions to disconnect power to the property 8 a.m. Wednesday, and that they did not know "if or when power will ever be restored" if the utility company followed through. The owners also said they were "not optimistic" it could be quickly resolved.
Many of the renters said they depended on being able to live in the rental units, saying they had nowhere else to go. Families calling from as far away as Indiana said they want answers and an immediate resolution to the situation for their loved ones.
Some residents claim they lived alongside families with young children and cancer patients, who are now also without power.
The Sevier County Economic Development Council, which oversees residential and commercial property development in the area, said it was just made aware of the situation this morning.