City officials in Longview are cracking down on the owner of a South Longview hotel that has made few fixes since the city sent a letter in February detailing several safety hazards and other violations.
City staff from the fire and building departments and code compliance met Monday with the owner of the Express Inn at 3120 Estes Parkway to ask him to “voluntarily” remove any remaining hotel guests, Development Services Director Michael Shirley said Wednesday.
Shirley said city staff will make a follow-up inspection this coming Monday.
“If they have not voluntarily complied, we will take this as not working with us from our February 28 letter, and we will have to post it as a dangerous building,” Shirley said.
Bob Patel, who identified himself as the manager of the 121-room hotel for 19 years, acknowledged some of the grounds had been damaged by rain but said no rooms were affected.
“We are working to remodel the hotel,” Patel said.
He said city officials ordered improvements a few months ago. He said 20 rooms were occupied Wednesday morning with a total of 65 rooms being available.
Brenda Johnson, who has been staying at the hotel for six months with her pit bull and two Chihuahuas, said Patel told her Wednesday that she would have to leave by Saturday.
“He is doing everything,” she said about Patel. “He has cleaned up the trash. ... I guess he said they (city officials) are really hard to please.”
Patel was unavailable for comment later in the day.
Shirley said city officials first became aware of problems at the hotel after police conducted a sweep of the Estes Parkway area in late 2018. He said the fire department notified his department that the staircases and balconies for the entrances to rooms had rotted wood and some structural issues.
Staff from the building, code compliance and fire departments conducted a walk-through inspection of the hotel Feb. 27 and identified “several major and minor violations of the city of Longview Code of Ordinances,” stated a letter dated the next day to owner Bhupendra Patel from Sabrina Graves, Longview’s environmental compliance inspector.
Graves cited a long list of deficiencies and the need for a structural and electrical engineer to remedy the problems.
She called for a structural engineer to evaluate all “failing structures” such as landings, elevated walkways, guardrails, roof supports, columns and the foundation supporting them.
She also wrote that an electrical engineer needed to evaluate the main distribution panel in the pool storage room because the panel was rusted and 3 to 4 inches of metal had “deteriorated/corroded” off the bottom.
Graves mentioned 16 violations, including exit lights not working properly in the lobby, a leak in the front entry of the banquet room, corrosion in the fire alarm control panel wires behind the front desk, nonworking light fixtures and potholes in the parking lot.
City officials also asked the hotel management to fill in a pool that had not been used in years, Shirley said.
Some people appeared to be doing work at the hotel grounds Wednesday afternoon.
However, Shirley said, “We have seen very little action. They just don’t have diligence in moving forward.”
He said most of the work had been done incorrectly.
“It was unpermitted and done by unlicensed electricians,” he said.
Johnson said she wasn’t sure what she would do next.
“I don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “It’s hard to find a place that I can afford on disability (benefits). I’m just very upset.”
She later left a voicemail message at the News-Journal praising the Express Inn management as being “so nice and so helpful, and they have been so good to me.”