Inspectors shut down motel

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 18, 2002

Suffolk fire investigators and housing officials closed off 66 of 82 guestrooms at a local motel Thursday afternoon when inspectors determined the rooms were &uot;unfit for occupancy.&uot;

Inspectors documented at least 100 health and safety violations at the Economy Inn, located across from Suffolk Plaza on North Main Street. According to Suffolk’s Fire Marshal Arthur Barrett, the inspection was prompted by a report from the motel’s fire alarm provider after the facility failed to approve repairs to bring the alarm system back on line.

Barrett sent Fire Inspector David Grove to follow up and Grove found other violations in the motel in addition to the failed alarm system. At that point, the fire marshal brought in inspectors from Neighborhood Development Services (NDS), and together with the fire investigators, they found conditions at the motel so bad in some rooms that 14 guests had to be relocated in other rooms.


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The owners have now been given 24 hours to vacate the guestrooms as a result of the countless violations. Prior to all this, NDS gave the owners 90 days to correct all code violations or be shut down.

Judkins said Barrett and housing inspectors spent Thursday afternoon tacking notices on each of the 66 room doors.

&uot;This is the fifth motel in the past 18 months to be turned over to the fire marshal as a result of violations of the public safety and fire codes,&uot; said Judkins.

&uot;When we find immediate life safety hazards, officials can shut down the rooms immediately if the problems can’t be resolved on the spot. The other four motels were inspected as the Economy Inn was today, and we try to work with them to resolve the problem. We understand the owners of the motels are trying to make a living, but they must be in compliance with codes for public safety. Closure is a last resort.&uot;

Some of the violations uncovered at the Economy Inn included breached walls, non-operating elevators, flammable liquids stored in motel rooms, non-functioning fire alarms and exit signs, defective electrical devices, and major leaks in the structure that have created mold and mildew in the rooms.

Another violation involved a resident of the motel who’s lived there for the past 13-years. Judkins said, according to city zoning ordinances, guests in motels may occupy a motel/hotel room for a maximum of 30-days at a time.

The fire marshal emphasized that Thursday’s events are only the beginning of an aggressive fire inspections program for all motels throughout Suffolk.

&uot;It is our job to make sure everyone has a safe, clean place to stay in Suffolk,&uot; Barrett said.

Fire inspections are always a priority and an ongoing effort of the fire department.

&uot;We perform fire inspections on any building in the city where public assembly takes place,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;We also inspect all new businesses in the city to make sure they are up to code. We perform around 300 inspections per year, and often they are the result of a discrepancy report from a facility contractor, as was the report from the fire alarm company that reported the Economy Inn. Anytime fire alarms or sprinklers don’t work properly, they notify the fire department. Also, all fire safety products, like smoke detectors and sprinkler systems, should be approved by the fire marshal to be in compliance with city code.&uot;

Along with motel/hotel/business inspections, the fire inspectors also look at facilities like nursing homes, hospitals, and day care centers. Those structures must be inspected at least twice a year.

Judkins added that the best way to prevent a fire is to perform aggressive inspections and to offer fire education programs.

&uot;We are fortunate that this motel was inspected before some disastrous incident took place,&uot; he said. &uot;The motel had holes in walls that would have allowed fire to easily spread quickly to other rooms, and if a fire had occurred during the middle of the night it could gain the advantage before we know about it. This could have been disastrous situation and we are very thankful that the fire department could help make sure the motel is safe for people who visit the place.&uot;

Judkins also noted that at least two inspectors who were at the Inn are now complaining of respiratory problems and he believes the problem to be the result of inhaling the mold and mildew at the inn. They are being medically checked out.

&uot;This is the fifth motel in 18 months we had to cite for fire violations,&uot; he said.

&uot;The only nationally franchised chain motels left are the Holiday Inn and Days Inn, both of which have met the requirements of our city code. Unfortunately, that did not happen with the Economy Inn.&uot;