West End Gardens management works to improve image
— Over the last few years, new management at West End Gardens has made progress in cleaning up both the motel’s premises and its public image.
Patricia Ruch, volunteer property manager, and Patty Barton, volunteer assistant, both acknowledge that the motel doesn’t have a great reputation in the community, but said that thanks to recent efforts, the business is now moving in a positive direction.
“The perception with most people is that it’s drug-related, there’s a lot of prostitutes and a lot of dealers here,” Ruch said. “Am I going to say there never was? No.”
But Ruch said that perception is no longer reality. The units have recently been updated with new flooring and many of the rooms have been repainted. In addition, West End Gardens management has been working closely with the Elkton Police Department to cut down on criminal activity, Ruch added.
And those efforts appear to be working, she said. Ruch frequently gets calls from prospective tenants who have been referred by current occupants who say the motel is quiet, safe and a nice place to live. The motel is currently at full capacity, with 95 tenants, and there is a waiting list, she added.
As part of her efforts to keep the community a safe place, Ruch said she calls EPD regarding any suspicious activity she witnesses. She also performs background checks and goes to the state’s judiciary site to see if the potential tenant has a criminal background and if so, what kind, Ruch said. And if she doesn’t feel comfortable, she will reach out to law enforcement too, Ruch added.
“The tenants know when they move in here, the first thing out of my mouth is ‘I hope you don’t have any warrants, because I will call on you and snitch you
Patty Barton, volunteer assistant and a tenant of West End Gardens, picks up trash she noticed in the area around the motel.
out,’” she said.
Ruch also encourages her tenants to call law enforcement when necessary.
“I tell the tenants, don’t be afraid to call the law,” Ruch said. “It doesn’t bother me that the law comes here, as long as it’s benefitting the property.”
EPD Capt. Joseph Zurolo said the number of calls for service at West End Gardens between Sept. 1 and Nov. 28 this year is 26 percent lower than that same time period last year, with 47 calls made this year compared to 64 last year. None of the calls during either time period were drug- or prostitution-related, he added.
Zurolo said the decrease in numbers can be attributed to both enforcement activity and to the cooperation of motel management.
Communication between management and law enforcement has increased and improved, he said, noting that the information management gives to the department is helpful because it makes EPD aware of activities in the motel area to look out for.
Over the summer, EPD performed a bust that led to an arrest for drug-related activity, Ruch said. The action taken by the police department led to the last drug dealer being removed from the motel. A person who was buying drugs was
removed shortly thereafter, she said.
Since the bust, Ruch said she has had no concerns regarding any tenants.
“Not a one, not a one,” Ruch said. “They keep to themselves.”
Both Ruch and Barton are in the process of working with the property owner, Mohammad Zumbair, on ongoing interior renovations, Ruch said.
The two have also initiated community cleanups and held activities for tenants’ children such as Thanksgiving crafts, Ruch said.
“The purpose of those events are to let my tenants know that myself, Patty and the owner appreciate them and like to do things for them and to let them know that if they ever need anything they know where to come,” Ruch said.
Ruch said there are more renovations to come in the units, as well as a possible playground for the tenants’ children.
A former volunteer property manager, Barton said she’s also noticed a difference compared to when she held the title in 2013. She said EPD were at the motel almost on a daily basis during that time. Barton recalled being robbed of $100 and being chased by people during her time as a manager.
“Now that it’s been cleaned up, I really like it here,” said Barton, who is also a tenant.
Longtime resident Ron A. said he’s seen the motel and community move in a positive direction since the cleanup.
“She’s here two years and I see it as 1,000 percent better than it was before she (Ruch) came here,” he said. “But it’s like everything else, you’re not going to change it over night. You still have your once-in-awhile problems.”
Before Ruch, it was “drug city” and “fight city,” Ron said. Though the motel previously had issues with drugs and homeless people, since Ruch took over as property manager, the motel no longer has those issues.
“We don’t have the drugs in here anymore,” Ron said. “We don’t have the fights in here anymore, we don’t have the problems. We at one time had a lot of problems with drugs and homeless people coming up here, that doesn’t happen anymore.”
Patricia Ruch, volunteer property manager of West End Gardens, and Patty Barton, volunteer assistant, are working to improve the area and the public’s perception of the motel.