By SHARON SALYER and KARL SCHWEIZER
LYNNWOOD — A motel along Highway 99 was ordered closed Friday by the state Health Department for alleged health and safety problems, forcing its weeping long-term residents to move out on a few hours’ notice.
The problems found by state inspectors included general filth, cockroach infestations, lack of repairs, structural defects and fire safety violations.
"It’s one of the worst we’ve seen; that’s the feeling of all of us," said Bliss Moore, a supervisor in the state agency’s accommodations and residential care section.
It is rare for the state agency to forcibly close a motel for such violations. Moore said he could remember only one similar action in the past four years. There are about 1,700 motels and hotels in Washington, he said.
Residents of the Vagabondsc House Motel at 16709 Highway 99 were forced to vacate the facility by 5 p.m. Friday. Eight of the hotel’s units were occupied, and about 16 people were displaced, said owner Kathleen Barrett.
She described the residents as "next to homeless." One had lived there for about five years, Barrett said.
"This is devastating because we didn’t get any time for the people to move and find other accommodations," she said.
Motel manager Arlene DeGroot said Barrett told her at 11:30 a.m. Friday that all the residents would have to be out that afternoon.
All residents were long-term and paid a weekly rate of $150-$200 for a bedroom, a bathroom, and for some, a kitchenette, DeGroot said.
Residents loaded their possessions into taxicabs Friday under a steady drizzle. DeGroot hugged another woman who was putting her last few possessions into a taxi. Both women sobbed.
"People made a home here. We had barbecues together. We did things together. There were friendships," DeGroot said.
DeGroot said she would move into her daughter’s apartment, along with DeGroot’s husband, who is disabled by emphysema, and her three teen-age sons.
Other tenants, lacking family or money, have nowhere to go, she said.
"These people are being kicked out onto the street," she said.
The state took action after receiving a complaint about conditions Sept. 27. The motel was inspected Oct. 6.
Problems documented by state and city of Lynnwood inspectors included lack of operating smoke detectors, significant scum and mold in bathroom showers, lack of heat, sagging walls, rotted wood post foundations, a major roach infestation and a "generally filthy facility littered with garbage and in general disrepair," according to a Health Department statement.
"We believe all these conditions created a significant health risk to the guests," Moore said.
Barrett said she is trying to figure out whether to reopen the motel.
"We do not agree with the findings, but we will definitely obey the law," said Barrett, who has owned the motel since 1978. "We have working smoke detectors in every room. We do have heat. We have repaired the furnace."
She charged that the state inspector "barged in" to rooms at 10 a.m. before some residents had even gotten out of bed.
"People didn’t have their beds made," Barrett said. "Some didn’t have their garbage emptied. I imagine if anyone’s house was inspected in the morning there would be violations."
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