Butler County inks deal with Holiday Inn for homeless quarantine amid coronavirus

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The Butler County commissioners have signed a $25,000 contract with Sharonville hotel for temporary housing if any homeless residents need to be quarantined due to the coronavirus.

Butler County General Health District Commissioner Jennifer Bailer originally thought she might need at much as $181,000 to rent the entire Oxford Comfort Inn. The commissioners on Monday approved a contract with Holiday Inn Express & Suites for up to $25,000 with a per-day room rate of $50 and a seven-day minimum.

Bailer first broached the subject with the commissioners in April.

“This is for people that are walking and talking, able to take care of themselves but who are experiencing symptoms or they may be waiting to see if they experience symptoms,” Bailer said. “This is not an infirmary, this is not a step-down hospital in any way.”

The initial estimate was $42,000 to rent 20 rooms for four weeks in Oxford. The lodging cost went up to $73,000 for 65 rooms because the hotel required her to rent the whole place. The rest of the cost, $108,000 was for the county to provide staffing, security, cleaning, food and other incidentals. She told commissioners she was seeking other options.

RELATED: Butler County seeks hotel space for quarantined homeless, but finds hurdles

Emergency Management Agency Director Matt Haverkos, with help from the Butler County Visitors Bureau and others, has been working to find a place willing to take the risk. It’s been challenging.

“We’ve probably talked to every hotel in the region in the course of the last month-and-a-half and some are in some are out,” Haverkos said. “Some are okay with it as managers and then some higher up the chain are not. So there’s just a whole back an forth depending on the day and the individual that you’re dealing with.”

The owner of the Oxford hotel was willing until corporate insisted they rent the entire place for this purpose. Haverkos said the hotels have been hurting financially, some seeing occupancy fall to single digits during the pandemic.

“It was a pretty drastic economic impact to the hotels and I know a lot of them were open and willing to help out when they can,” Haverkos said. “It’s just how’s the best safest way to do it, so they can still provide their business and do what they need to do.”

The manager of the Sharonville hotel could not be reached for comment.

Haverkos said if the need increases they now know which hotels are willing to discuss providing quarantine space. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has also offered use of his Resolutions minimum security jail as a quarantine location.

Paired with this problem is the need to transport people from hospitals to the quarantine location. The county is negotiating with Butler County Regional Transit Authority to provide that service. Haverkos said Conduent Transportation was deployed when the Duke Energy Convention Center was set up as alternative hospital space, to manage patient flow from the hospitals. Now that the Duke Center has been shut down as an alternate site he said he believes the Conduent agreement will also disappear.

He said the county is looking for BCRTA to fill the void.

“So maybe you’re in the hospital for a couple days or you have actually been admitted to the hospital and you need transport back,” Haverkos said. “Who is going to make that transport. You can’t just call a taxi cab.”

BCRTA Executive Director Matt Dutkevitcz said the details of the deal are being worked out but they can handle the job.

“We wouldn’t be mixing vehicles that are already in service we would pull something out and set it aside, of course,” Dutkevitcz said. “It would be completely disinfected before and after before it would ever be returned. We’re looking for volunteers within our staff who are willing to do the work. I don’t think we’re anticipating a real high volume right now but nobody thought we’d be in a pandemic a year ago.”

The commissioners already redirected $75,000 in unused 2019 Community Development Block Grant funding to help the Butler County Housing and Homeless Coalition get more people out of shelters, where social distancing is difficult.

Coalition member Mindy Muller said thus far no unsheltered residents have tested positive for the virus and they have rehoused five to seven families a week since the pandemic began in mid-March.

“We appreciate the tenacity of the Butler County General Health District to find a suitable location to serve persons needing to be quarantined and isolated,” Muller said. “A hotel provides the most appropriate setting for those needing time to recover. We will continue to monitor the health of those within the homeless continuum of care and work with BCGHD to follow recommended guidelines and protocol.”

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