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In the State of Kansas, Where Hotel Safety and Sanitation Inspections of
 Hotels Has Been Suspended, Some Officials Refer to Online Sites,
Such as Trip Advisor, to Get Inspection Reports
The Hays Daily News, Kan.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

December 5, 2009 --As a result of recent budget cuts imposed by Gov. Mark Parkinson, institutions throughout the state of Kansas are scrambling to make ends meet. What 2010 and beyond brings will be up to the Legislature once lawmakers return to Topeka next month.

For now, though, state departments are just making do. Some actions likely won't be noticed by the public. Others, we sincerely hope, are.

Take for example, Thursday's announcement by Kansas Department of Agriculture Josh Svaty. The newly appointed Ag boss said the state temporarily is suspending safety and sanitation inspections of hotels. Of the 825 hotels, motels, lodges and bed-and-breakfasts currently licensed statewide, Svaty said every one of them has been inspected and is in good standing.

While we tend to believe the secretary's assessment overall, an onslaught of negative reviews regarding the Ramada Hays Convention Center makes us leery of this particular facility not being inspected in the near future.

According to Jana Jordan, director of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, complaints have been pouring in from overnight visitors passing through town as well as associations that hold conventions and meetings there. The complaints focus not on the meeting spaces or food service, but on the sleeping accommodations.

"We have had many complaints about cleanliness, service, front desk attitude, key mix-ups, mold and multiple people being assigned to the same room," Jordan said Friday.

With the Ramada, formerly the Holiday Inn, being the only self-contained convention facility in Hays, the thought of the Ag Department not inspecting them for the foreseeable future concerns us greatly. Others as well.

"I am very sad to hear that," Jordan said. "(The Ag Department) was about the only mechanism in place to get things changed there."

We have not been made aware of any other hotel in the area having the kind of complaints this one receives. And they're not just made at the CVB. There are numerous online sites where unsatisfied customers have posted their thoughts about their night at the Hays Ramada.

A full 85 percent of reviews at tripadvisor.com do not recommend staying there. Twenty-eight of the 41 reviews rated the hotel as "terrible." Travelpost.com has 11 out of 48 calling it "horrible." Similar tales are told at yahoo.com, expedia.com, kayak.com and almost every other online review site. We have heard the same story personally from overnight guests.

George Lavigne, general manager of the Ramada, acknowledged the spate of complaints when contacted Friday. He said some of the problems were caused by a faulty key system that was placing guests into rooms yet to be cleaned or that were already occupied by others. He said some cleanliness and attitude issues were the result of his own staff. He also said there were mold problems because of the inappropriate placement of the pool in the middle of the rooms.

"We had a lot of things go wrong at the same time," Lavigne said, referring to the time period from August to October.

But he said these problems are in the past.

"We still have some issues from time to time," the general manager said, "but it looks like we're on the right track. We're coaching the staff. We're changing ceiling tiles. It's an ongoing situation."

Lavigne cited a recent inspection by the Ramada chain that the local hotel passed.

We're encouraged Lavigne said he is taking the complaints seriously. After all, his hotel is key to bringing large groups to Hays. Convention-goers want to eat, sleep and meet at the same location. As the Ramada is the only facility in town that can handle convention business under one roof, it is imperative the situation is remedied.

Without the encouragement and official enforcement of state inspections, the hotel basically will be responsible for policing itself. We sincerely hope the Ramada will remain up for the task. The Hays economy is too dependent on tourism business and bed-tax revenues for its only convention center to have such a bad reputation.

We also look forward to the Department of Agriculture resuming its inspection schedule. Communities need to be able to depend on the state for oversight of such vital institutions.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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To see more of The Hays Daily News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.hdnews.net.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Hays Daily News, Kan.

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