City council was in quasi judicial hearing where the city would decide weather to up hold City Planner Ian Wells decision to suspend the business licence of Connaught Motor Inn. Suspension of the business licence is for 3 months and the suspension will stay in force until all the city requirement are met. Starting July 1st 2016 and going till the end of September. Residents of motel will have till July 1st to find new places to stay. The city was presented with four choices cancel the 3 month suspension of business licence, maintain the suspension, reduce or increase suspension with possible extra previsions, or cancel the licence. The prosecution for the city called six witness and the owners representing themselves called none.
Superintendent Warren Brown the detachment commander of the Prince George RCMP was the first witness. "Connaught Inn is one of the most troubling hot spots for in our community for crime" he stated. The RCMP strategy to reduce crime is to target prolific offenders, social system users and hot spots and Connaught Motor Inn is one of those hot spots. The RCMP receive 700 plus calls about the motel last year. Crime is so common their that when the RCMP wants to deter crime they visit the Inn and it has proved effective. The business owner, Joe Carhoun cross examined the witness Superintendent Brown. The Carhoun insinuated that the people who live on the street are causing the problems and his business is just a near by location. Superintendent Brown responded by stating "your location is the hub of these problem." Carhoun also stated that the he had no idea about the problems. If you took every other hotel and motel in the city and added up all the calls the RCMP receive about them, the connaught Motor Inn would still outweigh them all.
Barry Nakahara, Manager of Prevention Services, WorkSafe BC was the second witness. The Connaught Motor Inn has had many violations levied against them by Worksafe BC. According to Nakahara many of those violations were never brought into compliance. There have been fines levied against Connaught Motor in in excess of $65,000 by Worksafe BC and the penalties have not been paid. The primary concern of Worksafe BC is the risk of violence that the employees are under by working at the motel. Working conditions are so bad that mushroom are stated to be growing in some parts of the building. Any risk that the employees have are also going to risks to anyone who is staying at the motel too. "I am not aware of us having involvement to this degree with any other establishments" Nakahara stated. The owners stated that they are being treated unfairly by Worksafe and have a "professional" dealing with the "unfair" charges brought against them by Worksafe BC, and therefor did not want to cross examine Mr.Nakahara.
Captain Steve Feeney, Fire Prevention Branch, Prince George Fire Rescue Services was the third witness. The business has in the past had fire code problems which were concerning. He also stated that the owners have made forward progress in dealing with those fire concerns.
John Bennett, Supervisor Building Inspections, City of Prince George was the fourth witness. He has multiple concerns about building safety and damage of the building. The Connaught Motor in is a liability to the city now that they know about its condition of the building. The owner refuted his claim stating that their is no problem and was willing to show the city. The city wanted to see improvements made when the owner said he was making them Bennett stated no building applications have been filed with the city.
Marilyn Sabatino, Bylaw Enforcement Officer, City of Prince George was the fifth witness. According to Sabatini there had been multiple complaints made against the Connaught Motor Inn. The city received a complaint about garbage problems around the property and the physical decay of the building itself. The problems persisted and then the city sent an order letter to the Connaught Motor Inn. This building is comparable to the Willow Inn, a property that had a one year suspension on its business licence for similar problems, according to Sabatino .
Superintendent Warren Brown filled in for Inspector Brad Anderson who could not make it for the hearing which was suppose to be witness six. The RCMP attendance to the building make up approximately 10% of their total activities. Accordant to Brown what makes the Connaught Motor Inn unique is that they would have criminal issues one after another unlike other motels and hotels. The superintendent himself have been to the 30-40 times jus t in this last year. The RCMP has been to the property in excess of 2000 times which are not only just calls. Problems at the Connaught have gone on longer than the Willow Inn. Policing the motel is time consuming, resource heavy and frustrating according to Superintendent Brown. When Carhoun cross examined Brown he was met with a strong statement from the superintendent, "from a policing prospective you have been willfully blind". The Carhoun agreed with the allegations but not the willfully part. "Any step besides the status quo who be an improvement" Superintendent Brown to owner.
Troy DeSouza who was the outside council prosecutor for the city stated in his closing remarks, Carhoun's argument that he did not know about these problems is not a real argument since the low occupancy rate should of been the first indicator there was a problem. Carhoun in a letter stated to the city, before this hearing, that he will need help and a "tax break"; in the eyes of DeSouza this was simply unprofessional. The city has bent over backwards to help the business with a very short suspension and lots of leeway before finally coming to the point where a business licence suspension was in order. If the city was to give a chance to the business owner, as Carhoun was suggesting though out the hearing, their needs to be evidence he is serious in fixing the problem, according to Desouza. DeSouza felt there was no evidence presented through this hearing that would make him believe the owners were serious.
When it came time for the councillors to give their remarks they did not hold back. Brian Shakun was extremely mad that he had to sit through this "garbage" which was the hearing. Shakun wanted the owners to pay back some of the costs the city had to spend on RCMP enforcement for the property. "you give absentee landlords a bad name" Skakun said to the owners of the motel.
Terri McConnachie said the owner provided crappy service to the guests who stay at the motel by how bad the conditions are. Tons of hotels that are in the downtown are at full capacity, that was in response to the owners stating that is a hard economy for motels in the downtown.
In the end Council was not moved by the statements Joe Carhoun made in his defence and in many occasions they felt his remarks hurt him more than helped. The city suspended the licence and their hopes are things improve but if they don't the suspension may not be removed come in September.