Aberdeen’s Thunderbird motel to close because of violations

The Thunderbird Motel — a source of public outcry after a December health inspection revealed a litany of violations — has agreed to the state’s request to close voluntarily until it remedies the citations, according to state documents.

The license suspension became effective last week, and will stay in place until the derelict motel is back in compliance with the state’s health code, said Greg McKnight, program director for Transient Accommodations at the state Department of Health. The state originally requested the motel close voluntarily about two weeks ago.

The state’s suspension order lists 33 code violations, including an infestation of cockroaches. Previous inspection documents also indicated hypodermic needles scattered throughout rooms and mattresses stained with what looked like blood and urine.

The motel’s owner appealed its original license revocation in February, which allowed it to stay open until a hearing planned for July 15.

Aberdeen City Council members, at a February meeting following the appeal, weighed their options to declare the West Wishkah Street motel a public nuisance and have it shut down with an order from the city. City Attorney Eric Nelson said at the time that taking such action would be inefficient and not any faster than the processes already in motion at the state level.

The city’s back-seat approach led to public criticism, notably from Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney, who announced at his own June City Council meeting that the motel “would have been closed months ago if it were located in Hoquiam.” Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson, in response, called the state’s process “prudent, economical and faster.”

Though the agreement to close comes more than four months after the state’s original license revocation, McKnight said the delay was a symptom of the state’s protocol, governed by laws.

“We operated as fast as we could,” he said. “Actually, I feel good that we were successful in getting the facility closed until the building could get repaired.”

Simpson, following the announcement on Tuesday, said he was pleased motel owners had decided to voluntarily suspend the license, adding that it made the process exponentially easier.

“It means a lot to me that we will not have a place unsafe for people to live in the community,” he said. “I hate putting people out ... but we need to make sure that people are living in good conditions.”

A single tenant remains in the motel, a city official said.

The only tenant remaining, said Bill Sidor, the city’s code enforcement officer, is waiting to receive a paycheck before moving out. Once the building is empty, Sidor said, the owners plan to begin the remodeling process.

Should the motel make repairs and restore its compliance with the state, Simpson said the city wouldn’t scrutinize the business any more than others. Sidor said last month that the city granted the motel a building permit, though owners had not made any progress in addressing the building’s structural issues. Their request to extend the permit, which Sidor said expires this month, was denied.

Motel owners remain behind on the business’s property taxes, paying the 2012 taxes in March to avoid seizure of the property, Grays Harbor County Treasurer Ron Strabbing said in June.

The license suspension order lists a Jae Ho Ko as the owner of Kenko Management, LLC, which owns the motel. James Kim, a lawyer with Lakewood practice Themis Law, is listed as the owner’s legal counsel. As of press time, Kim had not returned a message requesting comment.