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King County faces backlash over plans to convert Kent motel into quarantine site

Kent's mayor and business owners do not want a coronavirus quarantine motel site in their neighborhood. One person said it was "not a well-thought-out plan."

KENT, Wash. — Kent business owners and residents have called the old Econo Lodge motel on Central Avenue North somewhat of a headache. 

"The police were here most every night,” said Mark Scarff, the president of a nearby car dealership. “It’s a hot spot for crime, drug activity, buying, selling, using.”

Scarff assumed that when the motel shut down, things in the area would get better. 

Instead, last week he got a call from Kent mayor Dana Ralph dropping a bombshell. 

“[She] said, ‘I have some really troubling news. I was just informed that King County is purchasing the hotel just north of us and they’re gonna use it for coronavirus victims.’”

The motel’s location, on a major thoroughfare at the gateway of Kent, King County’s fourth-largest city, has business owners in the area concerned. 

Scarff and several other business owners on the block surrounding the motel released a letter opposing the location as a quarantine site.

“They have done absolutely nothing to make the building sanitary or safe,” said Scarff. “It’s just not a well-thought-out plan. It’s a knee-jerk reaction.”

By phone, Alex Fryer, the director of communications for King County, said the motel currently remains unoccupied. 

RELATED: King County to buy Kent motel to house coronavirus patients

According to Fryer, “There is no timeline and no numbers” regarding how many people could be quarantined there. Fryer said the county offered the site up as an option to quarantine Kirkland firefighters who had possible exposure to Coronavirus but had not heard back from them.

Kent mayor Dana Ralph and the city of Kent are waging a legal battle against the county’s plan. A judge denied the city’s request to block the county’s efforts to turn the motel into a quarantine site.

Ralph said the city will get another opportunity to argue against the plan. She said her concerns center on the nature of the facility, which will house coronavirus victims on a voluntary basis.

“There’s nothing that will require someone to stay until they’ve recovered from the virus or it’s been determined that they weren’t exposed,” said Ralph.

Ralph said the city will argue that, to move forward with their plan, the county will need a temporary use permit that will need to be rubber-stamped by the city. She said it is unclear when a judge will hear the city’s argument.

RELATED: King County judge won't block coronavirus quarantine site in Kent