East Ridge’s ineptness in dealing with issues of extended-stay motels in our fair city can be laid at the feet of past administrations and councils.
One can go back to Mayor Mike Steele and his City Attorney John Anderson, who went hard after Superior Creek Lodge and its owner David Gysin.
Push up the timeline to Mayor Brent Lambert, who had a Chief Building Official in City Hall by the name of Brad Hayen. It was under Lambert/Hayen in which Raymond James Stadium was condemned and Superior Creek shuttered under a “threat to public safety” ordinance.
Hayen hit the highway not long after these actions, reportedly to take a much higher-paying job in private industry in the Atlanta area. Lambert, who at the end of his tenure was reviled by much of the public, returned those feelings during council meetings from the dais during his last days in office.
It was also under the Lambert regime that the current extended-stay ordinance was crafted, toothless as it apparently is.
What’s more upsetting than having ineffective ordinances dealing with extended stay motels, is the fact that city staff may have done little if anything to make sure those businesses are complying.
After opening its doors in 2016, Budgetel was to have followed the provisions of the new extended stay ordinance: nobody stays longer than 180 days in a calendar year; presumably, no guests were to bring in any furniture of their own or appliances; presumably, city staff would perform inspections to make sure the property complied with various standards established in our building codes.
According to a story by Newschannel9, city staff may have completely dropped the ball in enforcing the extended stay ordinance.
After people displaced by a fire in Chattanooga’s Patton Towers were provided accommodations at Budgetel, one person blew the whistle and took complaints of unsanitary conditions to a local television station. This action forced the hand of East Ridge city officials to finally act.
City inspectors, via court order, were given access to the extended stay motel on April 6. Newschannel9 obtained the results of this inspection through an open records request. The report revealed pest infestation in the motel, a broken elevator, a potentially hazardous breaker box in a laundry area, and a resident who told inspectors she had lived there for three years.
So, what happens now?
It’s not near enough for our elected officials to pass ordinances and resolutions to deal with issues in our city. It takes effort and action to enforce these laws. For far too long, for whatever reason, our city staff has often failed to follow through with measures that are spelled out in the city code to force businesses and individuals to comply with East Ridge ordinances.
Who is responsible? The mayor/council makes policy. It’s the responsibility of the City Manager to implement those policies. In the case of the Budgetel and the handful of other extended-stay motels in our city, put codes enforcement to work, all five of the people in the department.
Have staff pour over the records of who is staying there and the length of their stay. If the electrical component of the building is sub-standard, force the business to address it. If a place is infested with pests, aren’t there health department rules that can come to bear?
If the extended-stay ordinance has a loophole on length of stay, it’s on the mayor and council to amend said ordinance. Refine it, give it teeth and enforce it.
I’m convinced our elected officials and city staff can fix this pox on our city that is extended-stay motels. If they can’t, perhaps it’s time to consider electing folks who will.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing excuses. The city’s inspection of the Budgetel is presumably completed and appears to be damning.
Now’s the time to take action.