Anoka County inspectors have shut down 32 of the 38 rooms at the Starlite Motel in Hilltop, citing “numerous serious and egregious” violations of health code.
Staff from the county’s Community Health and Environmental Services unit inspected and suspended use of 15 rooms in May, calling them an “immediate and serious threat to public health and safety.” In April, county inspectors suspended the use of 17 other rooms after finding plumbing, electrical and cleanliness problems.
Motel owner Raj Bhakta did not return a call for comment.
A receptionist who answered the phone for the motel said no rooms where available “at the moment. The rooms are being remodeled.”
The county licenses and inspects 65 lodgings — motels, hotels and some classifications of senior housing. A move to suspend operations for half of a lodging’s rooms is rare, an official said.
“I’ve been here since 1995, and it’s the first time I’ve done a suspension of a lodging,” said Spencer Pierce, manager of environmental services.
Inspectors have been out at the Starlite about a half-dozen times since last July.
Police and Hilltop city officials say there have been a rash of public safety and nuisance calls at the 1960s-era two-story motel on Central Avenue over the past few years.
Police in Columbia Heights, which provides law enforcement services for tiny Hilltop, said officers responded to calls at the motel several times a week. In 2013, police took 163 reports at the motel. One in four police calls in Hilltop were to the Starlite last year. Drugs and renting rooms to people with outstanding warrants are problems mentioned by authorities.
April 18 and May 6 suspension letters from Anoka County to Bhakta outlined 11 health and safety violations, including: “Walls, floors and ceilings are excessively dirty and stained with unidentifiable residues” and “walls in all units inspected have holes and or patched holes making the walls uncleanable and providing for vermin harborage.”