Kern County supervisors, citing disgusting health and safety violations, voted to impose higher fees on and require more inspections of troubled hotels and motels Tuesday.
Supervisor Mike Maggard said these businesses sometimes house people in insect-filled rooms with urine-soaked beds and other deplorable conditions.
Supervisor Leticia Perez remembered seeing a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl at the Tropicana Motel on Union Avenue crouch down to eat a snack.
When the girl hunched down, Perez said, her shirt slid up, revealing a back covered by bed bug bites.
The Tropicana was closed in the fall by Kern County Public Health Services for health code violations.
The problem isn't isolated to the people who live in the hotels, Maggard said.
"Hundreds of those children go to our public schools and they carry those bed bugs with them," Maggard said.
Currently, hotels pay a flat $380 fee for a county operating permit and are inspected once a year.
Under the new rules, each hotel would be evaluated on its operations, the size of its population in relation to the size of the facility, any physical problems with the facility and the hotel's history of compliance, according to a report from Public Health Services.
Public Health Director Matt Constantine said the goal is to leave good hotels alone and go after those that are historically having problems.
For well-run hotels the permit fee would remain at $380 and inspectors would only visit once a year -- just as they do now, the report explained.
But if the county's evaluation of the hotel shows problems, the fee and the number of inspections would go up.
Owners would pay a $760 permit fee for a moderate-risk hotel that would be inspected two times a year and $1,140 for a high-risk hotel that would be inspected three times a year.