Judge Plans To Allow Budgetel In East Ridge To Reopen - With Conditions

  • Monday, December 5, 2022

Criminal Court Judge Boyd Patterson said he plans to put down an order allowing the Budgetel Inn in East Ridge to reopen - after certain conditions are met.

He did so at the close of a lengthy hearing in the case. Hundreds of residents at the hotel earlier said they had scant notice that it was being shut down as a public nuisance on a complaint brought by District Attorney Coty Wamp.

The judge said he plans to go to the hotel site next Monday afternoon with parties in the case to inspect it.

Judge Patterson said the hotel would need to comply with all code requirements, though not all rooms would have to be updated before it could again be open.

He said it would have to abide by the East Ridge code on extended stay hotels that residents could not stay more than 120 days. Records at the time of the Nov. 16 shutdown showed that one resident had been there 882 days and two others over 500 days (574 and 556).

The judge said the Budgetel management would have to regularly turn over the hotel log (info about guests), that in the past has been denied to city officials.

He said the hotel would have to cooperate with police, including installing a camera system that would retain video footage for 30 days and be made available to police.

A hotel log that was obtained at the time of the shutdown showed 394 residents, though attorney Chris Clem (representing the owners) said it had over 800 residents and 264 rooms. Judge Patterson noted the conflicting information about the number of residents and expressed concern that management could be shielding information on several hundred residents.

The judge also said he was concerned about testimony that management shredded a number of documents at the time of the shutdown.

He said it was unsettling that on one occasion two children under eight were alone in a unit that had a fire.

DA Wamp called witnesses to list numerous police and medical calls related to the Budgetel over the past several years.

Assistant East Ridge Police Chief Josh Creel said it was a longtime trouble spot. He said, considering the city's numerous motels, the Budgetel took up 35 percent of police resources. And he said East Ridge just has seven patrol officers at a time working to protect 23,000 residents.

Chief Creel said on the planned day of the shutdown that a number of East Ridge personnel met and then went to the site. He said it was found that the front office was locked with a bicycle chain. He said personnel unlocked the office.

He said residents were given four hours to vacate the premises, though at least one resident was still at the site at 7 p.m.

Some residents had so many personal items that it took a UHaul to carry them off. Judge Patterson said that indicated that the facility was not a typical hotel where the guest just had a suitcase.

Torrey Holder of East Ridge code enforcement, said there were "nasty" living conditions, including bugs and filthy rooms. She said there were a number of violations, though most of them could be fixed without too much expense.

Some former Budgetel residents attended hearing
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