West End Gar­dens man­age­ment works to im­prove image

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

ELK­TON

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHO­TOS BY BRI­ANNA SHEA

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