The motel at 99 Howland Ave. is often raided by police during drug stings; fire officials fear hazards and health officials say the rooms are not up to code for long-term usage.
ADAMS, Mass. — Town officials have placed a vacate order on the Dug-Out Motel, forcing 15 families to leave what has become, for many of them, their homes.
According to Code Enforcement Officer Scott Koczela, the vacate order was issued last week and everyone living at the motel must be out within 45 days of the order.
After the units are vacated, the motel may continue to operate as a motel and not as a "boarding home," as officials have characterized it.
The order comes as an "emergency" after a schoolteacher filed a report with the Department of Families and Children claiming rats had bitten a child living at the motel.
Koczela said it was not confirmed that the child was actually bitten by a rat, but the complaint in itself was enough to trigger a stronger response to already cited issues at the Howland Avenue motel.
Various groups are looking to find housing for those who will be removed.
"That's going to be a big, big case we're working on," Koczela said, who gave the update on the case at Wednesday's Board of Health meeting.
The Tenancy Preservation Project, an arm of the Berkshire County Housing Authority in Pittsfield, has been working with the town, the Housing Authority and other housing entities, such as the Brayton Hill Apartments in North Adams, to secure a place for those being evicted.
"They are already seeking out alternative housing," Koczela said.
He added that the school district is facilitating meeting with those families for alternative housing.
The major issue with the motel is that it is not up to code to operate as a long-term boarding house. Board of Health officials said people have been living there for years at a time, in often overcrowded conditions.
Board of Health member Patricia Clairmont said she knows of one family of eight — two adults and six children — living in one of the units.
Town officials are also aware of families of four and three but a full count of the number living there on a more or less permanent basis is unknown. There is a total of 15 rooms at the two-story motel; tenants are reportedly paying up to $850 a month to live there.
State law requires a minimum 150 square feet of space for one individual and an additional 100 square feet for each other occupant. The rooms at the Dug-Out are about 213 square feet.
Police, fire, building inspectors and the Board of Health performed a joint inspection of the property in September. Police have reported to a high volume of calls there as well as some major drug busts. The Fire Department found issues with the residents being given hot plates to cook on and multiple non-functioning carbon-dioxide detectors.
Town officials set their eyes on fixing those issues and getting the motel to operated as it is zoned and permitted. The town had planned to work with the owners and managers until the teacher filed the rat-biting report. The town then issued the emergency order.
According to land records, the property is owned by Shoba Inc. but Koczela said when he talked to the owners, they were unaware of the issues facing the hotel. The owner apparently leases the motel to the managers; the corporation's address is the same as the motel's.