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City Council considers inspections for DeKalb hotel rooms

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 4:02 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 11:53 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – The City of DeKalb wants to make sure football teams, fans and families who come to DeKalb for the IHSA State Football Championships Nov. 29-30 can rest easy in clean hotel rooms.

On Monday, the council heard for the first time a proposal from city staff to create a licensing and inspection ordinance that would apply to hotels with at least five rooms in the city of DeKalb. The proposal passed unanimously on the first reading but will come back for council review on Sept. 23 after city staff make some changes.

The city had proposed fees based on the number of rooms in hotel buildings, ranging from $550 for the city's smallest hotels to $1,700 for the largest current hotel. The fees will be reduced by 50 percent for the first year of the program under the revised proposal.

"We have seen evidence of problems in hotel and motel facilities within our community," Mayor John Rey said after the meeting. "I look forward with the IHSA event coming in this fall ... to assuring that we have clean, hospitable facilities available for our guests and visitors."

Currently, the city has no standards and doesn't require city licenses for the city's six hotels and their combined 428 rooms, which includes the Hampton Inn, which is currently being built along Annie Glidden Road.

The proposed ordinance would require annual inspections of every hotel room in the city. Off-duty firefighters would perform the initial round of inspections to allow the program to get rolling as soon as it is approved, with the goal of inspecting all rooms before the IHSA comes to town.

"There's an interest and a trend of the establishments in the City of DeKalb to meet appropriate standards for cleanliness, sanitation, and to ensure they meet applicable building and occupancy codes and things of that nature," City Attorney Dean Frieders told council during the presentation.

Hotel operators at Monday's meeting said they supported the program, but opposed the fees involved. The proposed first-year fee schedule, based on hotel room ranges and not a per-room rate, meant some hotels would pay more than double on a per-room basis.

"It's important how we look in the eyes of the IHSA, but I think we need to investigate this a little more," said Vicky Torres, the general manager of the DeKalb Best Western. "... That's a big fee."

Third Ward Alderman Kristen Lash and other council members echoed the sentiments of the hotel owners and agreed to direct staff to reduce the fee by half for the partial first year of the ordinance.

"We should give some time to look at the fees, and talk to the hotel owners and see if there's some sort of compromise that can be worked out where they feel a little more comfortable, but we're still covering our costs," Lash said.

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