BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Two Bellingham business owners have until early October to decontaminate more than a dozen meth-laden motel rooms, health officials said Friday.
Fifteen rooms at the Aloha Motel and Villa Inn were red-tagged and labeled unfit to occupy by officials from the Whatcom County Health Department after testing positive for methamphetamine, said Jeff Hegedus, environmental health supervisor for the department.
One room was 90 times the legal limit for the drug and had a 10-year old child living in it, Hegedus said.
Both motels are along Samish Way, a thoroughfare leading toward Western Washington University and a long-time hotbed for crime, said Kelli Linville, Bellingham’s mayor. The city’s crackdown on crime in the area is part of a 2009 plan to turn the area into an urban village, Linville added.
“This has now been a fairly long-standing problem and it has gotten worse,” said Linville. “We’ll be looking at everything. We’re determined there will not be illegal activity going on along Samish Way.”
The 15 rooms were known spots for drug activity, added Lt. Bob Vander Yacht with the Bellingham Police Department. Laws limit the police and other officials from doing a building-wide test for methamphetamine, added Hegedus.
The owners of both motels said Friday they are working to decontaminate the flagged rooms and clean up the properties.
Drugs aren’t the only issue impacting the area, frustrated business owners added.
“They had a dead body last week pulled from the motel across the street,” said Sterling Fisher, who has owned an auto body shop in the neighborhood for about seven years. “A month ago there was a gentleman OD’ing on heroin, so we had to run out there and call 911, keep him up on his feet until the ambulance gets there. It’s kind of a common occurrence.”
Fisher said he was vigilant about protecting customers’ property by parking their cars inside overnight. He still lamented what he said were lagging response times by the police department.
“It’s not getting better. We call the cops a lot,” Fisher said. “Whatever it is, enforce something, because right now, nothing is enforced.”
His neighbor, restaurant owner Jozef Bosman, echoed similar complaints.
“At times it feels unsafe. I’m concerned some of my customers are scared to come here when it’s night because they don’t want to deal with some of the drug issues happening in the street,” said Bosman, who owns Diego’s Mexican Grill. “I’ve had my life threatened many times when I’ve asked people to leave the parking lot from them doing drug deals. I’ve had my front window smashed in at night in retaliation.”
Bosman saw the meth testing as a start, and hoped city and county officials would continue to remain vigilant.
“I hope it’s a start and I hope it continues,” Bosman added. “I think it’s a good thing that people see it.”