The Microtel Inn & Suites project in Aztec had all the makings of an ideal economic development project.
The hotel would provide lodging for people who wanted to take in Aztec Ruins National Monument, hike the arroyos looking for rock arches, play on the Animas River, participate in local festivals or enjoy the historic downtown.
And the project involved local subcontractors, a practice that puts some of the significant investment on the project into paychecks used to buy groceries and other items at local businesses.
But something went horribly wrong with this project and months after the hotel opened its doors many of the local subcontractors haven't been paid for their work. Most of those local companies managed to pay their employees and vendors.
And it couldn't have happened at a worse time. Many of the locals involved faced additional financial hardships over the holiday season.
Among the problems were complaints over general contractor mismanagement, cost overruns and delays, disputes over amounts still owed to workers, substandard workmanship by subcontractors and damage to materials from September storms.
Apparently, the first missteps came at the very beginning when a company without the needed experience built the hotel's frame with substandard materials.
A consultant who investigated the project, which received a certificate of occupancy from county inspectors, says the hotel should be "gutted."
The list of problems was long. They included warped subfloors, sloppy silicone sealing on exterior siding, buckled or defective siding, missing fire ceiling panels, a fireplace gas leak, unpainted walls and doors, missing exhaust fans, exposed duct work, roof vents covered in duct tape and faulty door locks.
We are not experts on what it takes to get a certificate of occupancy, but some of those things sound serious.
The story in today's paper reported one bright spot.
Developer Sam Blue, who owns the industrial park on the south end of Aztec where the hotel was built, says the outcome is "heartbreaking." He brought the consultant on board to investigate the problems and personally paid one small business owner whose home cleaning business folded when she was not paid in a timely manner for work performed.
"I don't accept that (the subcontractor's unpaid work) as collateral damage," Blue said. "I'll see if I can help outside of mediation."
But hundreds of thousands of dollars are still owed to subcontractors. A local attorney has been hired to ensure those people get paid. We hope its not too late for other businesses involved.
Blue, who added some signature touches to the hotel, says he still is optimistic about the project.
We're glad someone with local roots and pride is still involved in trying to clean up this mess. That gives us reason for optimism.
"It's been a bumpier ride than I planned on," Blue said. "It's going to take a lot of cooperation but it's all fixable."