By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – A motel that is said to be more than 75 years old is the subject of concerns by the city of Woodville.
The Willis Motel, which was the location of a fire in late 2019, is the topic of a hearing set for Monday, April 26. The City Council will meet in the capacity as the city’s Building Standards Commission and give consideration to the condition of the facility and what action(s) should be taken.
The city has compelled the owner to attend the upcoming hearing to “show cause why [the motel] should not be ordered vacated, secured, repaired or demolished.”
The Willis Motel, known to many locals simply as “The Willis,” or “The W,” has long been in operation in Woodville. City Administrator Mandy Risinger said the motel’s owner said at a previous hearing that it was more than 75 years old. A file on the motel from the Better Business Bureau indicates that it has been in operation as the Willis Motel since at least Jan. 1, 1978.
Risinger said that the fire marshal investigated the Willis after the fire and requested that the city’s building inspector come and assess things.
The pandemic hampered the city’s ability to work on cases of dilapidated structures last year, and also, Risinger said, the fire marshal, Chuck Marshall, died last year and there was no documentation that the Willis’s owner had resolved any of the issues.
Risinger said that at a recent hearing, held on March 29, the owner was under the impression that all of the issues had been resolved.
The Jasper fire marshal, whom the city is contracting, re-inspected the property, Risinger said, and found issues to be addressed, which the owner began working on. Additionally, the fire marshal requested the city’s building inspector and health inspector look into the facility.
Risinger said the city has also received a number of complaints from residents of the motel as well as charitable organizations who have used the facility to put people up. She said the owner is compiling a list of livable rooms to present to the Building Standards Commission and has to provide a plan for addressing all of the existing issues and a timeline.
Public records show an LLC, Vaishvi, as owning the Willis Motel. The Secretary of State’s office lists a Dipesh Lad as the principal with Vaishvi.
For the coming hearing, the council is sitting as the Building Standards Commission. Under the city’s by-laws, they can either appoint one or serve as the commission themselves. They will choose how to move forward with the owner and the facility, and can give the owner 30 days to address the issues. If they give him more than 90 days, Risinger said, a detailed timeline is required.
Progress reports on the work will also be required. At present, Risinger said the owner is supposed to be getting estimates on how to bring the problem parts of the property up to code.
Risinger said it stands to reason that the property would need continual maintenance and upgrades over time, and that typically in the motel industry, as well as with most commercial property, major overhauls usually take place.