The collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans cost the city $6 million in the first two weeks since the Oct. 12 disaster, which killed three workers and threw the busy heart of the city into chaos.
The Times-Picayune reviewed figures provided by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, reporting that overtime pay to first responders and rescue workers, damaged infrastructure, cleanup costs, lost revenue and other expenses were calculated into the two-week total.
So far, taxpayers are footing the bill for the Hard Rock disaster. The city is using surplus funds from the police and fire departments to cover the costs. According to the Times-Picayune, Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño said the city will do whatever is necessary to recover costs from the responsible parties.
It’s likely just a matter of time before the city files a lawsuit against parties that could be held responsible for the collapse, but how much the city will be able to collect remains uncertain.
The top floors of the 18-story hotel caved in while more than 100 construction workers were on site. According to the Times-Picayune, the Hard Rock was in a push to complete the building before Mardi Gras. It was about halfway completed when it toppled.
The city’s major collapse-related expenses include nearly $2 million in payroll and overtime for scores of emergency workers working the site.
Damage to North Rampart Street, the busy thoroughfare running NE-SW in front of the Hard Rock, has cost the city about $1.2 million.
Repairs to damaged transit infrastructure cost nearly $900,000, as did lost revenue from canceled performances of the musical “Wicked” at the city-managed Saenger Theater and damage to the building itself, which sits directly across the street from the Hard Rock.
According to the Times-Picayune, Hard Rock’s owners and insurers have already paid $5 million just to implode the two towering cranes that loomed precariously over the city for several days after the collapse. Those cranes were brought down with explosives on Oct. 20, allowing some residents and businesses in the fall zone to return.
The city’s ultimate expenses are certain to dwarf the $6 million in costs it spent and lost in the first two weeks. Lost sales tax revenue, fuel expenses, and other expenditures have not yet been computed.
Mayor Cantrell says the city of New Orleans is spending about $400,000 a day on response to the cleanup of the Hard Rock Hotel and the recovery of the bodies of two construction workers that remain buried in the debris.
Recovery crews haven’t been able to recover the bodies of Quinnyon Wimberly, 36, and Jose Ponce Arreola, 63. Officials say that the debris that covers the bodies will have to be removed piece by piece before they can be recovered. Mayor Cantrell said that recovering those bodies remained her top priority, “being not just a mayor but a mother.”
The body of 49-year-old construction worker Anthony Magrette was recovered on Oct. 13.
The cost of the building’s collapse, not just to its owners and other responsible parties, will likely exceed their insurance coverage and thus their ability to pay. Should they declare bankruptcy, the city could become an unsecured creditor, leaving taxpayers to recover just a small fraction of its total expenditures.