Residents told to leave Bourbonnais motel

July 6, 2018

BOURBONNAIS — Residents in an extended-stay motel are being given days to leave as a result of Kankakee County’s efforts to shut it down because of public safety issues.

In interviews Thursday, residents said the office manager told them earlier this week they must move soon. An estimated 100 people live in the building; some have been there for years.

They are being given different days to leave, a resident said. Most have until later this week or early next to move.

The building, once a Motel 6, is on Illinois Route 50 and Armour Road, next to Denny’s. It is in unincorporated Bourbonnais.

Many residents said they were given no reason for being ordered out. A few said they were told it was because of electrical wiring issues.

On a nearby fence, the county placed a notice of a building ordinance violation on May 31. It stated the motel was doing construction work without a building permit.

When the Daily Journal called the county code enforcement office, a woman answering the phone said her office was aware of the motel’s situation, but referred questions to the State’s attorney’s office.

In response, State’s Attorney Jim Rowe confirmed his office was taking action at the motel at the direction of the county and its administration. Nuisance and safety concerns “have plagued the property and taxed law enforcement resources far too much, for far too long,” he said.

“These matters take time and there is a legal process that we are following,” Rowe said in an email. “A nuisance business is no different from a nuisance gang house or a nuisance drug house — they all negatively impact our community, so we as a community say, ‘make it safe or shut it down.’”

Asked whether the county had given the motel a deadline to close, Rowe said he could not comment on prospective closure dates.

Like many motel residents, Edwin Smith said he has been left in the dark.

“They didn’t give us any reason whatsoever,” he said, adding he was not sure where he would live now.

Nancy Sotelo also was upset at the suddenness.

“No one has anywhere else to go,” she said.

Veronica Poppell was angry that no one in the government was giving residents answers about what was happening.

“We’ve been trying to call the state’s attorney all day, and we haven’t gotten a response,” she said. “We didn’t know this was coming. If we did, we would have had more time to prepare.”

A woman working in the motel office declined to comment.

According to county assessor and treasurer records, the property’s owner is listed as Homestar Bank and Financial Services in Bradley. Those records show the property’s market assessment is about $600,000. Until until 2011, Motel 6 owned the property. It’s assessed value has dropped by more than half.

Sarah Neill, an area official with Catholic Charities, said she was made aware a couple days ago about the motel’s situation.

Although Kankakee County no longer has a homeless shelter, a number of local groups, including the Salvation Army, send homeless people to various places in the area, including the Route 50 Motel, Neill said.

“There hasn’t been a lot of information,” she said.

In his email, Rowe said he was “conscious” of how the county’s actions would affect social services.

“Toward that end we have been proactive in reaching out to community social service providers to give them a heads up and explore possible approaches and housing alternatives,” he said. “Those efforts are continuing and our office is communicating regularly with hotel representatives as well as community agencies.”

The steps taken so far, Rowe said, have been done in collaboration with county board officials as well as Bradley Mayor Bruce Adams’ administration and the Bradley Police Department.

Even though the motel is outside Bradley’s jurisdiction, Rowe said, the village has devoted a lot of law enforcement and medical resources to the property as back-up to county sheriff’s deputies and occasionally even as first responders.

Rowe said he could provide no other details about the county’s efforts, but promised to provide more information as the matter progresses.