News 12 at 11, July 29, 2007
AUGUSTA, GA---The Richmond County Health Department ordered a Gordon Highway motel to shut down, but many people there say it's home, and they're not leaving.
The Augusta Super Inn is at 1602 Gordon Highway, near the Honky Tonk. News 12 talked to the owner about the problems and his plans to clean it up.
Signs from the Health Department cover the windows at the Augusta Super Inn; room after room after room closed for failing Richmond County Health Code violations.
Tenant Lashone Marshall says she can understand why. "They got spiders, cockroaches, they should have been closed. This is nowhere to live, especially if you have kids."
But kids and families are still here, living in the same rooms closed by the Health Department.
News 12 asked owner Rajiv Bhardwaj why this was allowed to happen. "They closed the rooms and people have already paid for room so we can't tell them to leave."
And there are people like Lonnie Priester who say despite the code violations, he's proud to call the motel home. "It's not the worst place in the world. They don't need to shut it down, it's okay."
But County Health Officials don't agree. Rajiv says the list of violations include what he calls minor problems, like issues with the motel's ventilation system and weather stripping. As for the bugs, he says pest control crews have helped make a change.
Sharon Paris has lived at the Augusta Super Inn for six months and says she has seen the pest problems improve. "It's clean. You don't see as many cockroaches. You may see one or two but not as many as when i first moved here."
While Rajiv admits his property is not up to par, he also says he was unfairly targeted by a Health Department inspector. "It is embarrassing because instead of getting a pat on my back for me and my staff I feel that I've been wronged and kicked in the back."
Maintenance crews covered the property Saturday (July 28) replacing the old with the new, working around the clock to fix the problem spots by Monday (July 30).
Former employee Julie Morgan says the health code violations are just the beginning of the motel's problems. "Drugs. Crack, prostitution, mainly crack."
News 12 asked Rajiv about the allegations and he admits the property has a problem with both. But he also maintains his staff is working to fix that as well. Off camera, his property manager told news 12 four drug related arrest were made Friday night, 12 more the week before.
She also added since Rajiv's new management the drug problem has gone from a 10 to a 6.
But Morgan doesn't buy it. "They need to level it. Just shut that place down. It's been the same problem for years, but it's just getting worse."
Rajiv says the Health Department will visit the Augusta Super Inn on Monday, July 30 for a follow up.