Task force: Value Motel resistant to advice

Owners claim improvements to make business ‘more palatable’ are too expensive

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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A community task force offered tips to make the Value Motel “more palatable” for the Hazel Dell community.

But Keith Kilian, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Commander leading the task force, said the motel owners didn’t take the advice to heart.

“We tried to engage them into the process, and they’re pretty much content or set upon their current clientele base, which is in conflict with the neighboring businesses in Hazel Dell,” he said.

For now, Kilian and the task force will have to wait and see whether the motel owners address the dozens of deficiencies identified by the Washington State Department of Health during a March 30 safety inspection. The owners have until June 27 to take corrective action or face sanctions.

Kilian met with Milton O. Brown, who owns the Value Motel property, and Haresh Patel, who leases the buildings and runs the business, on May 11. Kilian said he offered suggestions to improve security and “make their business practices more palatable for the community.”

By the end of the meeting, Brown and Patel gave no indication they intended to implement any of the suggestions, Kilian said. The owners claimed economic difficulties made improvements too expensive, he said.

Brown did not return Columbian interview requests. A Value Motel employee who answered the phone Wednesday said managers were not available.

At the May 11 meeting, Kilian suggested the motel owners require customers use credit cards and no longer accept cash payments. With a credit card on file, the motel could charge the customer for property damages.

The owners told Kilian many customers at the hotel don’t have credit cards, and if they do, the cards may be stolen, Kilian said.

If the owners won’t require credit cards, Kilian recommended they require cash damage deposits for the rooms. Currently, the motel may require cash deposits from people with a history of damaging property or may refuse to rent to those people, Kilian said.

Kilian’s more costly suggestions included installing security cameras in the hallways and electronic key card devices on doors for the low-rent building. The owners expressed concerns about the expensive cameras being destroyed, Kilian said.

“They were not interested in changing some of their practices or security measures,” he said.

At the time of Kilian’s meeting with Brown and Patel, the owners said they completed 70 percent of the work to resolve problems identified by health officials, Kilian said. The health department didn’t visit the motel before granting a 30-day extension request in May, said Gordon MacCracken, spokesman for the state department.

Many of the deficiencies cited in the 17-page report — like soiled mattresses and bed linens, dirty carpets and stained walls — were in motel rooms. Kilian hasn’t been inside any of the rooms since the March 30 inspection, but said some of the carpets in the common areas appeared cleaner.

“It’s kind of like putting lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig,” Kilian said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.