DUNEDIN — Extension cords did in the Dunedin Cove Motel — first on Saturday and then again on Tuesday.
Snaking from room to room to room, the cords brought the Dunedin fire marshal out to the motel Saturday, leading to its shutdown.
And after a nearby business owner noticed an extension cord leading to a motel room on Tuesday, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies arrested three people.
Dunedin Cove Motel owner Demetrio DelSol, 46, who lives at the property, was arrested not because of the electrical problem, but because deputies saw him driving his truck into the motel's parking lot. His driver's license was suspended, and he had been arrested on the same charge in May.
Two other men, Jonathan Bond and Timothy Linares, each face charges of power theft and drug possession. Bond also had a warrant for failing to pay child support, authorities said.
The arrests were the latest entry on a growing list of official actions taken as a result of living conditions at the 25-room motel at 1220 Main St.
Local authorities said they have been scrutinizing DelSol for nearly six months. In that time, he's racked up more than $30,000 in fines for allowing debris to accumulate on the property and making electrical modifications without a permit, according to the city.
But after what he saw Saturday, Fire Marshal Bill McElligott said he had no choice but to shut down the place. The violations over the weekend included:
• Twelve to 14 extension cords connected from room to room. The cords were being used because the building's electricity had been turned off, officials said.
• Exposed electrical wiring.
• Inoperable hard-wired fire alarms and smoke detectors.
• Gasoline and other flammable liquids stored next to a gas water heater.
• A loose railing.
Saturday morning, sheriff's deputies responded to a call of a fight at the motel. Dunedin Fire Rescue also responded to treat someone hurt during the fracas. Five people were arrested, three for fighting and two for outstanding warrants.
"And then, all hell broke loose," DelSol said in an interview with the Times Monday.
Firefighters called McElligott, who closed the property.
"There were numerous issues found there," he said. "It was four pages worth of violations."
But DelSol said he doesn't believe the violations were that serious. He said he had only two extension cords in use. He also acknowledged the motel "needs a little bit of cleaning."
"The violations are not enough to where we should be shut down," he said.
But over the past six months, DelSol has racked up more than $30,000 in code violation fines, said Matt Campbell, assistant director of Dunedin Planning and Development. And the fines are going up $350 a day.
DelSol also has not had a city occupational license for two years, Campbell said. The city is "business-friendly" and has tried to work with DelSol to no avail, Campbell said.
Inspections by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation dating to October 2007 list electrical deficiencies and the loose railing.
A state inspection Monday morning concluded the property's violations "are not an immediate threat to the public," according to the inspection report.
McElligott doesn't agree.
"If it's a threat to life or safety, there's no question under the law," McElligott said.
A lien has already been placed on the motel and the city should be able to foreclose on the property by the end of the month, Campbell said.
The motel, built in 1957, is assessed for taxes at nearly $1-million, according to Pinellas County Property Appraiser's records.
Despite the problems, DelSol said he hopes to open as soon as the end of the week.
"All that's holding us up is an electrician," DelSol said.
Jackie Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4167.