KINGSTON — It’s 10 a.m. Feb. 10 and on this rain- and wind-lashed morning, Sheila and Harvey Powar, owners of the Blue Water Inn, are sitting in their car outside the caution tape surrounding their fire-damaged motel. They’re waiting for the fire marshal to come and survey the damage.
Two days earlier, at 8:40 p.m. Feb. 8, a familiar guest had checked into their inn. The 60-year-old man “was a former guest — he had stayed here maybe 10 times in the last two years. We thought we knew him,” Harvey said. “We never had any trouble with him before.”
In retrospect, both of them recalled him acting unusual.
“He forgot his bag,” Harvey said.
“He didn’t remember his key,” Sheila said.
About seven hours later, two other guests at the inn called the Powars — one on the inter-phone and another by cell phone—reporting smoke.
That was about 3:40 a.m.
“When I heard that, I went outside,” Harvey said. “When I came around the corner, I saw the smoke out back and started banging on doors.”
Sheila called 9-1-1. It was 3:44 a.m. Feb. 9.
At first she thought the fire was outside, which led to the initial call being for a brush fire.
Their guest had allegedly set fire to his room and run away.
“One of our guests saw him running away and told the officers,” Harvey said. At 4:31 a.m., sheriff’s deputies captured the suspect in a forested area between the Billy Johnson Skate Park and the Village Green Community Center.
The arson story got big play in the local television news, papers, and social media that day.
But now it is Friday, Feb. 10 and the Powars, alone save for a friend, are waiting to learn their future.
“We’ll find up how many rooms — if any — we can open up in the front (part of the inn),” Harvey said. “It’s up to the fire marshal and the insurance company now.”
In the meantime, the Powars and three other families who made the inn their home are having to look elsewhere.
“This is really disheartening,” Sheila said. “I don’t think he realizes what he has taken away. Four families have lost their homes.”
The Blue Water Inn is one of the few affordable housing options in Kingston and Sheila has been an outspoken advocate for the homeless and transient in the Kingston area. Now, she acknowledges bitterly, “I guess we’re homeless, too.”
At least for now.