Value Motel cleans up, stays open

Value Motel in Hazel Dell now satisfies state health department’s inspectors; county commissioner still pushing to raise its curb appeal

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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The Value Motel has cleaned up its act enough for the state to allow the notorious Hazel Dell motel to continue operations.

After a recent check, the Washington State Department of Health has decided to drop formal action it took against the motel after finding used syringes, blood-stained mattresses and walls dirtied by “organic debris” during inspections in March.

Value Motel owner Milton O. Brown was scheduled to appear Tuesday in Tumwater to appeal the health department’s August decision to revoke the motel’s operating license. The hearing has been rescheduled to March 19, but likely won’t take place, said Allison Cook, spokeswoman for the state health department.

“Our agency inspectors went back to the property for re-inspection on Dec. 13 and all deficiencies cited in previous reports and in our initial order have been corrected,” she said.

The state and Brown have entered into an agreement to dismiss formal action. That agreement should be finalized in January, Cook said.

Brown did not respond to The Columbian’s request for comment. The hotel is operated by Haresh “Harry” and Smita Patel, who were not available for comment Friday.

Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt said he was happy Brown worked with the state to clean up the motel.

“I think it’s important that we really stay on top of it and make sure it stays cleaned up,” he said. “And also we want to get more people around there, more people out there to make sure it doesn’t become a bad spot in the community.”

Boldt said he’s talked with Brown several times about improving the curb appeal of the motel.

For starters: the signs.

“For one thing, they’re wrong,” Boldt said. “And they just make the place look bad.”

Plan for demolition

Boldt’s other priority is to see two rundown buildings on the complex demolished.

Back in June, Boldt expressed interest in the county’s stepping in to condemn and demolish the one-story buildings located along Highway 99, east of the two operational buildings. The buildings’ rooms, with boarded up windows and doors, are not rented.

Since June, however, Boldt said he’s talked to Brown and was encouraged by the conversations. The buildings have been cleared for demolition, and Brown indicated he will voluntarily tear them down, Boldt said.

“Now we need to push more to make sure it happens,” Boldt said, adding that he hopes to see the buildings leveled in the coming year.

Year of problems

The finalized agreement between Brown and the state will wrap up a nearly yearlong saga.

The state health department launched an investigation into the motel after receiving two complaints. The first was an anonymous complaint filed on Feb. 3. The second complaint was filed Feb. 9 by Clark County Environmental Public Health.

State health officials conducted a safety survey of the motel on March 30 and later produced a 17-page report outlining dozens of deficiencies. On June 27, Brown submitted a signed report to the state indicating that after 60 days of work, the motel’s deficiencies had been corrected.

On June 29, state health officials conducted a follow-up inspection, which revealed many of the deficiencies had not been corrected. The number of uncorrected deficiencies prompted health officials to begin the license revocation process in August.

If the Value Motel had lost its operating license, it would have been the first revocation in Clark County since at least 2006, said Gordon MacCracken, a health department spokesman.

“Records prior to that are archived and no one wants to speculate based on memory,” he said, “but it’s safe to say they’re few and far between.”

The motel, 708 N.E. 78th St., has operated in Hazel Dell since 1963.

Marissa Harshman: http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com; 360-735-4546.