Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Friday, 09 November 2012 08:54
The online reviews for one Bowling Green hotel call it "absolutely repulsive," "disgusting," and "maybe the worst hotel ever."
|Victory Inn and Suites at 1630 E. Wooster St. in Bowling Green. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
And at least every three weeks, hotel customers report complaints to health and fire safety officials.
Victory Inn and Suites, 1630 E. Wooster St., is again being cited by the Wood County Health Department for unsanitary conditions and the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office for fire safety violations.
"I'm so frustrated with this," said Brad Espen, director of environmental services at the health department. The hotel has been repeatedly cited for violations, and then corrects them - temporarily.
"As soon as they are corrected, they re-occur," Espen said.
The health department filed criminal charges against the hotel in Bowling Green Municipal Court in May. The 29 counts of the charge include sanitation issues, insects such as bedbugs, plumbing and electrical problems and dampness in some areas, according to sanitarian Tom Rutter, who has inspected the hotel.
The fire marshal's office last month cited the hotel for not having working smoke alarms in rooms, plus noted cleanliness violations. The inspector found bedding in numerous guest rooms to be dirty and stained with unknown substances, plus dirty floors, walls, ceilings and equipment.
Matt Mullins, spokesman for the State Fire Marshal's Office, said the hotel will be given time to fix the violations.
"They have 30 days to make corrections," he said.
If the corrections aren't made, the business could have its license suspended or revoked.
"Potentially, they could lose their license," Mullins said.
But the problem, according to Espen, is that the hotel management has a history of temporary fixes.
The most recent complaints were lodged with the health department this week, when a guest from Tennessee called to report a bedbug infestation.
"There is a bed bug problem," Rutter said after inspecting the rooms again this week.
The owner of Victory Inn is trying to make improvements, according to Bowling Green attorney Hal Hanna, who represents Jamal Garmo, of Michigan.
"He's trying to fix up the place in a manner that will be acceptable," Hanna said. But while the income from the hotel is enough to pay operating expenses, it leaves little for larger improvements, he added.
About 90 days ago, the entire 100 units were cleaned to get rid of bedbugs, Hanna said. And the owner is trying to put in place a quality assurance program that will meet the health department's approval.
"Their hope is to have the hotel rehabilitated sufficiently so they don't have any more complaints," Hanna said.
That would be great, but Espen isn't ready to book a room there yet.
Espen is looking for a bigger solution that would take care of some of the 155 hotels in the state that have frequent health and fire violations.
"There's a lack of ability of the fire marshal's office to enforce regulations," he said. The system needs "escalated enforcement."
As a possible solution, Espen talked to State Rep. Randy Gardner and Bowling Green City Prosecutor Matt Reger. In the case of repeat violations, Gardner said the state may consider giving more authority to cities or health departments to enforce rules.
"The public health is important," Gardner said.
The repeat violators are also harmful to well-run hotel operations in the same communities, he added.
"Other reputable hotels are being negatively impacted by this place," he said.
Reger said the problems at Victory Inn have been going on since 2007. "What happens is, they correct this problem and another problem comes up. That's been a consistent theme for years."
The criminal charges in BG Municipal Court are still pending.