JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Water and electricity were restored Friday afternoon to America’s Best Inn on Dix Ellis Trail in the Baymeadows Center area of Jacksonville after power was cut earlier this week to the remaining residents.
The News4JAX newsroom has gotten calls from upset residents who say they have small children, newborn babies, relatives on oxygen and other medical devices who were suffering in the heat and still have nowhere to go.
Residents told News4JAX that amid the sweltering heat, they endured unsafe conditions and no bathrooms over the past two days after losing power and water for 28 hours.
“It’s hot. You can see us all we’re sweating. I’ve been sitting in my car in the shade because I can’t take it,” said Dena Patterson, who’s staying at the hotel. “My dog…”
When News4JAX showed up on Friday, the long-term guests living at the extended-stay motel were hot, exhausted and frustrated without power or running water for nearly a day and a half.
“There’s families here, there’s elderlies, disabled, children, pets, and we’re all suffering right now,” Patterson said. “I slept with my door open last night, and mosquitoes ate me up.”
The News4JAX I-TEAM has been investigating conditions at the property for months since the city condemned a building in the complex that wasn’t structurally safe and then a shooting of a child. After residents were asked to leave the condemned building, the remaining residents received notice that they had to vacate the property due to renovations.
This week, utility company JEA confirmed the account holders requested the utilities get shut off.
JEA on Friday morning issued the following statement to News4JAX on the power being cut to the complex:
“JEA is working to provide assistance to the motel residents and ensure their safety. We have contacted local homeless shelters and the City of Jacksonville seeking housing assistance and resources for the residents.
“JEA disconnected electric and water services following a request by the previous account holder. JEA is ready to establish reconnection of services once the property owner provides the necessary authorization.”
In Florida, it’s against the law for a landlord to not provide power and water, so code enforcement began fining the owner -- Baymeadows Hotel 18 LLC.
“We have a lot going on, trying to keep everybody cool,” said motel resident Jermaine Washington. “That black bag over there is ice.”
News4JAX discovered the city fined the owner $9,500 for this, and if it continues, the owner could have to pay $10,000 a day.
Around 12:30 p.m. Friday, JEA and residents told News4JAX that electricity and water had been restored. We were there as JEA crews showed up, turning the utilities back on.
A woman who told us she’s the manager demanded we leave, but we later got in touch with a former part-owner, Samuel Bonnardel. He says the current owners did not intentionally shut off power -- instead, the account was flagged. He claims the guests here are actually squatters who are not paying -- which is why he says ownership is working on emergency evictions. Residents say they did pay in advance, and they have a message.
“Just do the right thing. If you want us out, do the right thing,” said a resident named Stu. “Evict us legally. Don’t turn the power out. Every time I turn around, it’s something else. We are people, not animals.”
People who live at the motel say they plan to sue.
JEA noted that residents facing eviction may secure temporary shelter services through City Rescue Mission (904-421-5155) and residents who have secured permanent housing may call the city of Jacksonville’s Social Services Division for assistance at 904 255-3341.
A News4JAX report in April found that Jacksonville police had been called to the motel more than 800 times since January 2021. According to 91 pages of records, those calls have been related to drugs, gunfire, armed disputes, armed assaults, domestic violence, robberies, carjackings and other incidents.