AG Dakota’s excuses for closed motel in Chamberlain don’t add up

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Bel Aire Motel in Chamberlain was closed for the 2019 hunting season but some hunters who had made reservations didn’t know that, said Natalie Muruato, the executive director for the Lake Francis Case Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce.

Muruato said the chamber office was contacted by several hunters who tried to confirm reservations but couldn’t reach the motel. The chamber referred those hunters to other lodging in the area, she said.

Muruato said the Bel Aire has been closed for at least as long as the year she’s been with the LFCDC and Chamber.

The Bel Aire and Home Motel in Salem are owned by AG Dakota, which is primarily owned by Alan Gross, said David Hooper who works with Gross and AG Dakota.

The Home Motel is also closed which leaves a void in the town, said the city’s finance director Lori Heumiller.

“It’s missed for sure,” Heumiller said.

The motel was used by hunters, guests for weddings and by others, she said.

Hooper told KELOLAND News the Bel Aire can’t re-open because of damage from a mudslide in Chamberlain.

“Where that property is there was no slide of any kind,” said Chamberlain’s city engineer Greg Powell.

The Bel Aire’s address is 312 E. King St.

Powell said the motel was closed in the spring and summer of 2019. “(The city) ended up mowing the grass and weeds in the boulevard,” Powell said. The motel owners are responsible for mowing the grass in the boulevard along the property, he said.

The city started mowing the grass when it was 10 to 12 inches high, Powell said.

Although he tracked roughly 10 to 12 hours of mowing by the city, he didn’t submit a bill to the owner because he figured it wouldn’t be paid, Powell said.

Chamberlain is just one of the motels still owned by AG Dakota in South Dakota. KELOLAND News was able to track at least 22 motels AG Dakota bought and returned to the prior owners or still owns, through county officials.

AG Dakota still owns motels in Wagner, Gettysburg, Clear Lake, Arlington, Salem and Canistota and the Dakotah Lodge in Sioux Falls. AG Dakota is still listed on tax rolls as the owner of a motel in Kadoka.

Salem and Canistota, like the Bel Aire, are closed. AG Dakota owes back taxes for all three motels, county officials said.

Hooper said the motels in Salem and Canistota are for sale. Gross also wants to sell the motel in Arlington, Hooper said.

The Bel Aire is in a good location, Muruato said. “I can think of a million different things for that (location) aside from a motel,” Muruato said.

Muruato said she’s interested in knowing what plans the owner has for the motel property.

Hooper wrote in a Feb. 2 email to KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke that Gross “has stepped away from the company completely” because of another family death. In a Feb. 3 email to Kennecke, Gross confirmed that “over the next two weeks I am working to transition all operational control to Dave Hooper and his team.”

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