Amherst County Cites Motels for Safety Violations
Madison Heights, VA - For more than a month, Amherst County officials have been cracking down on motels in Madison Heights.
The public safety director says all four hotels or motels, failed fire code inspections.
He says the worst offender, the Bestway Inn, was cited for not having enough fire extinguishers, not having working smoke detectors, and in some cases, having down right filthy conditions.
The owner of the motel says it's starting all over with new management.
Since the investigation started two months ago, it's expanded to include Planning and Zoning officials, the Sheriff's Office and the Amherst county Health Department.
But all of it started with a deceased person call at the Bestway Inn on February 21, 2013.
Gary Roakes says the person died of natural causes, but it alerted officials to 'unsafe' conditions at the motel.
Roakes says space heaters were plugged into adapters and too close to combustible materials. And there was only one working fire extinguisher, he says based on the square footage, three more are required.
Since taking over as head manager of the Bestway Inn last Monday, Mary Murray says the motel's come a long way.
She showed us what the rooms looked like before.
"I would never, ever let anyone live in these kind of conditions," Murray said, pointing to cooking grease splattered across one wall.
She also pointed to a shower, with what looked like mildew, and a urine-smell that our cameras can't capture.
"Owners of this motel had no clue," Murray said, adding that the previous managers should have done something sooner.
A few doors down, a fresh coat of paint gives a much different picture.
Managers and the owner of the Bestway Inn say they're renovating all 64 rooms and the 30-day maximum stay is one of many rules they're strictly enforcing.
Guests seem to be taking note of the new changes.
"The Management is improving big time," said Chris Paxton, who's been staying in one of the rooms for the last three weeks.
Don't believe him? The owner invites the public to come, take a look for themselves.
The public safety director says right now -- all four motels in Madison Heights are either in compliance or working to get into compliance.
Punishments range anywhere from hefty fines to shutting them down altogether.