By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – It’s been nearly four months since the April tornado swept through the city and damaged or destroyed scores of homes and businesses.
Among the most heavily damaged was the four-story, 80-room Comfort Suites on North Gloster Street.
What’s left of the building still stands and is fenced off from public access, but city officials are mulling demolishing the hotel and clearing the property at the owner’s expense.
The owner is Bruce Patel of Tupelo-based Fusion Hospitality, which owns and operates 18 hotels in six states, including eight in Mississippi. In Tupelo, Fusion has five hotels.
In a legal notice, the city said the Comfort Suites property “may be demolished, boarded up, cleaned up and vehicles removed by the city,” with the cost of removal along with a penalty of $1,500 or 50 percent of the actual cleaning or abatement cost placed as a lien against the property.
The city itself said a complaint was made to its Department of Development Services that the hotel property is “in such a state of disrepair, upkeep and dilapidation as to be a menace to the public health and safety of the community.”
Development Services Director Shane Hooper said the notice was “routine language” for the city as it looks after public safety.
He also added, “As always, we work closely with the property owners.”
Patel, who is out of town, said he had “no comment or complaints” about the matter.
A public hearing will be Sept. 2 during the City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall to determine if the Comfort Suites property is indeed a “menace.”
The Comfort Suites property in Tupelo, built in 2008, had the back of its roof blown away during the tornado. The sprinkler system was triggered during the storm, drenching everything inside the hotel that the heavy winds and rain hadn’t touched as the tornado passed overhead.
Once sitting next to the Comfort Suites, the 65-room Sleep Inn had the top of its roof shorn by the tornado. It was demolished in early July, and its owner said he plans to rebuild.
In previous interviews, Patel has said his plans to rebuild will be influenced by the compensation received from his insurance provider.