County says no sign of drug manufacturing inside former Hwy 99 hotel

The sign is a shock and a warning.

Photo by Doug Petrowski

It hangs on the fence surrounding what used to be America’s Best Value Inn at 221st and Highway 99. This fall, Snohomish County bought this property and another motel in Everett, to remodel and reopen as bridge housing — a first step to help the chronically homeless. The county purchased the Edmonds property for $9 million in August and knew about its drug- and crime-related history. Last April, an Edmonds police officer shot and killed a man who advanced with a knife outside the hotel. In October, officers arrested a Mountlake Terrace man after a two-and-a half-hour standoff in the hotel. Police have responded to a number of drug calls on or near the property.

The former America’s Best Value Inn on Highway 99 in Edmonds will serve as transitional housing for those who are homeless.

But after that sign went up a week ago, KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson used it in a broadcast to spark fears that the hotel had been the site of meth manufacturing and questioned the county’s purchase.

County Councilmember Nate Nehring

Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring, who appeared on the radio show, said he is not happy with the way his comments were used. Nehring said that during the program, it appeared to him “that at least some of these rooms were being used as meth labs.” But he called the host’s handling of his comments a “misunderstanding” that unfairly implied “that the county had ownership when the motel was contaminated with meth.” Monson’s post has since been taken off KIRO’s website.

The county said it put up the signs only as a warning, as part of the cleanup process. County Communications Director Kent Patton said that there was no sign of drug manufacturing in the hotel. As a part of the sales agreement before the county took over, said Patton, “we did the testing, tested the whole bloody thing.” The county did find high levels of drug contamination “in every room, in every common area… but not high enough to show the manufacturing of drugs, but enough people in enough rooms (were) doing meth often enough that it became a problem.”

The interior of an America’s Best Value Inn room. (Photo courtesy Snohomish County)

In a statement, County Executive Director Ken Klein, the point person on the project, wrote that the county taking over the property will “eliminate a threat to public safety and a blight on the community. The hotel stopped taking guests as we were closing the transaction. In fact, the purchase and sale agreement required that the seller vacate all rooms.”

The county took control of the motel Dec. 5; none of the rooms was occupied. The former owner is paying the county to clean up the property; the $689,000 to do it was deducted from the sales price. The cleanup and repairs will take several months; the county hopes to have the new bridge housing open around the end of summer. The site will retain the 55 living units and provide space for on-site staff.

The county plan defines bridge housing as not just getting people off the streets with a roof over their heads; it is intended to provide wrap-around services 24/7 to start people toward permanent housing. The county will contract with a social service provider, which will hire staff for security, job search, education, counseling and health services.  The county has not yet said how it will decide who gets to move in and whether the site might take couples or small families.

Security will be on site at all times and the operation will run with a code of conduct. That code, Patton said, includes language that says if “you use drugs you can be kicked out.” But the facility does not require that tenants are in drug treatment either before or when they move into housing.  “We rely,” Patton said, “on the caseworkers and others there working with these people to say let’s get you some help, lets go in that direction” of drug treatment. It is not, added Patton, “a cookie cutter approach, but rather designed for each individual (who) essentially will have a caseworker.”

It’s a fine line that the staff will have to navigate. Councilmember Nehring, a critic of the county plan, said “I think from my perspective the ideal way is to require some sort of treatment program and (tenants) be required to sign up” before they get housing. Nehring added he hopes the program succeeds and “people will volunteer to move into treatment. I don’t have a ton of confidence that is going to happen, but I hope so.”

Photo by Doug Petrowski

Executive Director Klein thinks the building “will be a constructive part of making the community healthier and safer. It will also significantly increase our housing capacity for the unsheltered, an important priority for our residents and business community.”

The county has a lot at stake. Its reputation and integrity are on the line as well as the health and safety of homeless residents and the community.

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. Some years ago I used to listen to KIRO talk shows quite a bit. They had a Liberal guy, Dave Ross, in the morning and then Dori Monson, Conservative, in the afternoon I believe. One day Dori decides to do a survey of who his listener’s think is the worst Seattle talk show host and people started calling in. One of the first callers told him he was the worst talk show host in Seattle and when the final results of his telephone poll were tallied, he won his own worst talk show host in Seattle poll by a small majority. His latest misinformation fest seems to prove he still is the worst.

    I have big reservations about this County plan working myself. On the other hand we need to give it a chance to work; without a bunch of biased and inaccurate information being put out by ideological pundits in the area.

    1. Clint, what does Dori Monson have to do with this? Did he close it down? Or maybe you’re mad that someone predicted that this would happen. Just asking.

      1. Scott, honestly man, did you even read the article? He’s the guy that used the sign he saw to start the rumor that the building had been a meth lab. Mr. Nehring was not happy about how the host had used his comments on the show. Like most talk show hosts, Left and Right, Monson has a big mouth and needs to create controversy or at least feed on controversy to make his living. I thought it was funny when his own listeners told him he was the worst at what he does. This was an aside the point. For the record, I could care less that someone is making predictions about this. I hope it’s a success but am pretty sure it will not be; because it’s just another band-aid being put on an artery bleed out.

  2. I wonder how often they will be testing the rooms for meth or other drugs once the facility opens? After all, they want to provide safe housing free of contamination. Is this going to be a recuring problem for this site? Without requiring treatment as part of the agreement to take up housing, we’re really not helping as we could and should. This will become a money pit for us taxpayers without providing the benefit everyone wants.

  3. This is not a function of city government or something being administered by Mayor Nelson. This is a County initiated program to try to do something about the proliferation of homelessness in the South County area. I’m sure like most of us, Mayor Nelson is not thrilled to have this facility in our city limits not to mention that specific location but it is not something he or the city have much of any control over. I’m all for holding our elected people accountable but I’m also very much for being fair about how we do that.

    1. Clint brings up a good point – what is the official standing from the administration’s perspective? For or against, it does make an impact on the city, businesses, residents, and those intending to be served. As a spectator, we have seen various remarks from city staff (and councilmembers) in fairly strong support of the project, so one would deduce those individuals are towing the line of the administrations official standpoint. We need to keep in mind even though this is a county project, the city is ultimately in charge of everything that happens outside the walls of the facility. So that is the control they have over this, and it will be strictly reactionary. Perhaps at some point we will actually know they city thinks and feels about all of this, even if that means confirming they have given good thought to the real impacts they are going to need to manage for this to be successful and keep everyone safe and services to be effective.

  4. Words, words and more words. Bottom line we spend millions of dollars and over and over it doesn’t work. I am all for helping people who really need it. If this hotel isn’t heavily policed, many occupants will be in danger as will the businesses around and the community. We aren’t stupid out here. Stop the insanity.

  5. National studies show that 30% of homelessness is attributed to those suffering with mental illness, 38% alcoholism, and 26% illegal drugs. We will never be able to build our way out of the homeless problem until we start providing comprehensive services for these people. The difficult and sad part is many of these people don’t think they have a problem, don’t want help or all they can think about is how to get their next fix. No barrier housing and just offering services may help some but it is not going to solve the underlying problem that the majority of these folks suffer with. At some point our society has to have laws, rules and consequences that are enforced. The majority of our elected officials and representatives believe this is just an economic problem: rising rents, income inequality and lack of affordable housing.

  6. I agree with you, Janene, and regarding chronic serious mental illness, it seems to me WA’s Involuntary Treatment Act needs to be reconsidered just as NYC’s current mayor has recentlly done. WA’s law is so restrictive that it’s almost impossible for families to get treatment for their loved one. The fault is WA’s law plus the extreme lack of facilities in our state!

  7. Extreme law enforcement and jail for what amounts to an illness will never solve anything. We jail more people than most Western countries now. The only thing that will stop this is to take most of the profit out of legal manufacture and distribution to put the illegal players and legal profiteers out of business. Lots of supposedly upright and honest domestic business’s as well as foreign drug lords and crooked public officials are making a killing on keeping mostly poor sick people, poor and sick. We need to treat hard drugs just like alcohol and pot in a controlled and taxed legal business model. Abuse and addiction need to be addressed in the medical field, not the legal and law enforcement fields, other than DUI. Taxes should be used for cheap and readily available treatment and that should include mental health treatment and drug maintenance for those who can’t or won’t accept treatment. Homelessness and crime are symptoms; not causes of the problem. Mostly immoral and unethical greed is the problem.

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