2012-07-07 / News

Motel owner complains of threats

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake Police Captain James Hanzey said the owner of the Econolodge at Ohio 79 and I-70 hired him and officer Jeff Vermaaten to watch the hotel after the owner perceived that angry clientele threatened him.

Hanzey said a man was upset when, after staying at the hotel for a couple nights at $39.99 per night, he wanted to stay another night since his power was out following storms, and was presented with a bill for $79 for the same room.

“He paid it, then the electric (at the motel) went out again,” said Hanzey. “He wanted his money back. I told him no.” He said he couldn’t force the hotel to return the money because it was a civil matter and out of police jurisdiction. Hanzey said the man called the Ohio Attorney General’s office and a Columbus news team, angry about the hotel price-gouging him and others during a crisis.

Hanzey said he contacted Mark Gardener of the Licking County Prosecutor’s office to learn if the hotel owner was raising prices illegally. Hanzey said Gardner told him there’s nothing he could do because raising rates isn’t illegal as long as the advertised $39 rate is honored to at least one customer. Hanzey said the hotel owner displayed an Econolodge document stating that Econolodge hotel owners, if they wish, may charge up to $194 per night per room for one person, $245 per night per room for two people, and an additional $50 for anyone else staying in the room, including pets.

“There were some threats made,” said Hanzey, who added that while the threats weren’t made directly to the hotel owner, the owner felt his life was in danger (he didn’t press charges) and he hired Hanzey and Vermaaten to watch the hotel for the evening when the officers were off duty.

Hanzey said Vermaaten watched the hotel from 2 to 4 p.m., and Hanzey watched it from 4 p.m. to midnight. He said the hotel owner paid the entire bill for protection and gave the Village of Buckeye Lake $100 to cover the cruisers’ fuel. “The taxpayers had nothing in,” said Hanzey. “It was a civil matter until the threats came.”

Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker said Hanzey and Vermaaten worked a total of 10 hours at the hotel and charged the owner $15 per hour. “It didn’t cost the village,” he said. Baker said people are sick of being out of electricity in the heat and tempers are flaring. “Everybody’s in a bad mood,” he said.

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