Fort Wayne hotels could face tougher rules

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Hotels and motels in the Fort Wayne area would face new health and safety standards under a proposed ordinance drafted in response to visitors’ complaints about bedbugs, damaged rooms and other problems with local lodging.

The proposed ordinance would require annual inspections, with each site being graded based on the number of violations. Sanitation standards would be clearly defined and hotel and motel guests could easily access the grading system results.

An increase in complaints about lodging conditions makes now a good time to act even though the issue was first discussed about five years ago, said Mindy Waldron, department administrator for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

“At the time, we did not receive a lot of complaints, but now the complaints are of a substantial nature,” she told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1dCUOdQ ).

Waldron said the health department investigated 29 complaints in 2011, but last year those complaints rose to 41. So far this year, the department has received more than 30 complaints, she said. The largest number of complaints have involved bedbugs and other pests, structural damage and stained or damaged mattresses.

Dan O’Connell, CEO of Visit Fort Wayne, approached the local health department after reading several negative online reviews of the region’s inns.

“We had to address this,” O’Connell said. “It may be a single, solitary comment, but the world is reading it.”

Among Fort Wayne’s 5 million visitors last year, about 1.2 million of them were tourists and almost half of those — 44 percent — stayed in motels and hotels while in the city, he said.

O’Connell said the new regulations are important to helping Fort Wayne and Allen County continue to attract tourists through conventions, youth sporting tournaments and other venues.

Waldron said that while hotels with stringent corporate-issued standards support what Allen County is proposing, some local owners of hotel and motels are concerned about the standards.

“No one wants more government, and some are fearful of being graded,” she said.

The ordinance would not apply to bed-and-breakfast establishments, which are governed by state law, she said.

Board members of the Fort Wayne-Allen County health department will vote on the proposed ordinance Oct. 15. If that’s approved, it would become effective Jan. 1, pending final approval from the county commissioners, Waldron said.

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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