City Revokes Hotel’s License
In a called session on September 23, the Vidalia City Council voted to revoke the business license of a local hotel and to partner with Francis Energy to apply for a grant for EV Charging Stations.
According to City Manager Nick Overstreet, the City has been working with the State Fire Marshal’s office and Toombs County Health Department to ensure that all businesses within the City are acceptable according to code and standards.
“We’ve dealt with the Econo Inn; now, we have taken some action on the Budget Inn. We are going to continue to be looking at properties to make sure that they are continued from page
up-to-par and where they need to be for the City,” Overstreet explained. “We want our community to be a location that people desire to come to, and we want to make sure that visitors who come to the hotels can feel safe.”
These agencies completed several inspections of the Budget Inn property, located at 1503 East First Street, and notified the business owners of issues that needed addressing for the hotel to comply with state code. At the called meeting, Council members agreed to revoke the business’s license until these issues are addressed. Overstreet explained that once these improvements are made to the facility, the business’s license may be reinstated, and it may return to functioning as a hotel.
Mayor Doug Roper also commented on the situation. “We have an obligation to our citizens, as well as those traveling to our community, to provide them with safe and up to code lodging accommodations. Unfortunately, this particular business was not meeting what local and state laws require and therefore their business license was revoked. They will have the opportunity to take corrective actions but the minimum to regain their license is incumbent upon them meeting the local and state requirements.”
The Budget Inn has had a history of issues related to drug activity, as noted through a letter dated October 19, 2021, to Dhara Bhavasar, registered agent for KDDS, LLC, doing business as Budget Inn. In the letter, Fitzner warned Bhavasar that he was aware of “drug-related activity” occurring at the hotel and that Fitzner was authorized as the District Attorney to “file a lawsuit declaring properties upon which substantial drugrelated activity occurs as a public nuisance.”
Fitzner noted three unrelated cases where individuals were convicted of or indicted for drugrelated offenses at the hotel within the last year (2021), two of which were for possession of methamphetamine and one of which was for possession of ecstasy. “The crime, especially violent crime, that inevitably follows in the wake of this drug activity is a danger to the public at large. The public has had enough of it and so have I,” Fitzner said in the letter.
“There are many resources in Toombs County and beyond to help people with substance abuse issues. Criminal convictions need not and should not always be the result of addiction. An environment that perpetuates addiction makes that hard, and when violent crime results, it makes it impossible,” Fitzner commented.
The City Council also authorized for City Manager Overstreet and City Clerk Amy Murray to execute a partnership with Francis Energy to write a grant application for 3 EV chargers within the city. This grant application comes as a result of the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed this year, and the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program.
These chargers will come at no cost to the city, as any remaining costs of the chargers will be paid for by Francis Energy, which will also take care of all maintenance of these charging stations. These stations will be “super fast charging,” meaning they will fully charge all electric vehicles, including a Tesla (through the use of an adapter), within 30 minutes, and will be located throughout the city at Ronnie A. Dixon Park, Ezra Taylor Road, and the Vidalia Regional Airport. The City will receive 20% of the charging fees from those stations.
Currently, the city is awaiting the grant application period to open. Once this period is open, the City and Francis Energy will work closely to complete the application. Installation of charging stations will begin once the results of the grant are received, and are anticipated to be completed in 2023.
Roper also spoke on this endeavor. “We are excited about the opportunity to work with Francis Energy to provide our community with charging stations. We look for any and all means to leverage grant funding to limit the burden on taxpayers locally and that is what we have found with this company.”
Roper explained that any cost for installation above what the grant covers will be paid for by Francis Energy and the City will enter into a revenue sharing agreement with them for the long term. “If the grant is denied, the City has no obligation to see the project through but we are hopeful it will be approved and we will have three site locations with the ability to charge 4 vehicles at one time at each location,” Roper said.