KCMO voters to decide on hotel inspection fees

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Next week, Kansas City voters will be asked if local hotels should pay operating and inspection fees to the Kansas Department of Health. The department needs a way to continue to fund mandatory inspections but local hotel leaders say these fees are redundant.

"Our association does not support having to pay both the state and city for the same permit and the same inspections," Bud Nicol said, Executive Director of the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City.

Right now, all hotels in Missouri must pay the state for inspections and operating permits.  A year ago, the state provided local health departments with funding to perform regular inspections. The Kansas City Department of Health said the state cut that funding last summer, forcing the local health department to shell out at least $20,000 to perform inspections.

"Generally the motels and hotels in the Kansas City area do a fantastic job and are in great shape. There are however a number of hotels that aren't kept up to standards,” Bert Malone said, Deputy Director of the Kansas City Health Department.

Recently, the health department has been forced to shut down at least two area hotels after inspectors found dead mice, animal feces and mold throughout the facilities.

"The public could get sick by going to into a facility like that, so yes we're going to do it whether we're funded to do it or not but in order to do it on a continual basis we're going to need some funding," Malone said.

But according to Nicol, two sets of fees could hurt many Kansas City hotels eager to host conventions and conferences. The fees discussed in next week’s ballot would range from $150-$350 annually depending on the number of rooms in a hotel. That could be on top of state inspection fees. If those costs are passed onto visitors, it could make it tougher for local hotels to be competitive.

"Will $10 make or break a decision maker? Probably not.  But it forces our convention and visitors’ bureau and all of our marketing efforts to have to work a little bit harder. We have a great city, a lot to sell and so we want to keep the costs of hotel rooms comparable,” Nicol said.

The Kansas City Health Department and the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City are working with city leaders including Kansas City Councilman Scott Wagner. Together, they are trying to work with state leaders to change language in the state statute that could require local hotels to only pay fees to the local health department administrating the inspections. 

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