Carson City Board of Supervisors begin process of dealing with problems at residential motels

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The Board of Supervisors on Thursday agreed the maintenance, sanitation and life safety problems at some of Carson City’s residential motels are a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

They said they’ve received numerous complaints about the appearance of those motels as well as reports from fire, health and sheriff’s officials about the conditions inside the structures.

The panel unanimously ordered city staff to work with motel owners, service groups and city officials to develop a plan that can, at least, improve the situation.

Joel Dunn of the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau told the board there are 10-11 of the city’s 34 motels that offer extended stay rentals, weekly and monthly, to those who just can’t afford an apartment.

But they were quickly told it’s not as simple as closing some of them down.

“We realize motels provide a low-income housing alternative for many of our residents in Carson City,” said Carson City Planner Lee Plemel. “There are about 1,800 hotel and motel rooms in Carson City. About 600 of those, one-third, are rented long-term.”

The board was also told there was no process for periodically inspecting those motels unless the fire department believed there was a health safety issue. The sheriff’s department, health and welfare officials and others can’t automatically go in and make an inspection.

Supervisors Jim Shirk and Karen Abowd said one possibility is to change the rules to provide more inspections. She said maybe the annual business license could be conditioned on an inspection but Plemel said since all those licenses come due in January, that would put a huge load on the inspectors. He and City Manager Nick Marano said that might be one way to get to part of the problem.

Fire Chief Bob Schreihans said it would help give city officials the right to inspect in trade for renewal of the business license.

There also were suggestions including from Shirk maybe the license that allows motel owners to rent long term needs to be changed.

But Dwight Millard, who owns City Plaza and several other long-term rental motels in town said the real issue is the people who have to live in those situations.

He said those residents “are mainly uneducated people, a lot of them have problems, a lot of veterans, a lot have mental problems.”

“The problem really starts with the people you’re dealing with,” he said adding that closing them down won’t fix it. “There’s a big need for this. People have problems physically, mentally and just financially.”

Schreihans made a similar comment saying, if fire decides to shut down a motel for life safety issues, they have to find some place to put the people who are displaced.

Millard emphasized ending the ability of motels to rent long-term (beyond 28 days) isn’t an answer. But he said if the city decides that’s the way to go, “the first persons I want you to tell they can’t stay in a motel longer than 28 days is the Legislature.”

Terri Srch, owner of Lander Studio Suites and Stewart Street Inn said the motels need to provide a decent place for people below the poverty line to live. She said about 30 percent of her residents are veterans.

“We as property owners need to work with the city in fixing this,” she said.

Millard agreed landlords share responsibility for making sure these people have decent living conditions but said the outside appearance of the buildings isn’t a health safety issue. Supervisor Brad Bonkowski joined fellow board members in making the same statement.

Mayor Bob Crowell told staff they need to work not only with fire, sheriff’s, health and building officials but the motel operators themselves and with service providers including FISH, the Salvation Army and groups like the Northern Nevada Dream Center.

The board set no deadline for Plemel and the city staff to return with recommendations.


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