Questions surround St. James Hotel

Published 11:16 pm Monday, December 14, 2009

Bill Ezell, the manager of the St. James Hotel, is no longer at his post.

Ezell works for Gourmet Services Inc., an Atlanta-based operation that manages the hotel.

It is uncertain what happened to Ezell and his position. The St. James continues to operate.

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Sheryl Smedley, director of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, said Ezell called her Friday and said he was leaving.

“Ezell is no longer there,” she said. “His last day is Wednesday. He did not say why.”

Some questions have been raised about the health of the old historic hotel on Water Avenue. Gourmet Services received the contract to run the hotel in 2007. The company sent Ezell, who oversaw many upgrades, including painting all the guest rooms, cleaning the carpets, purchasing new food service equipment, new bar equipment and even more linens and towels for the guest rooms.

Kristen L. Hoffman, director of marketing and sales for Gourmet Services, said the company would have no comment on Ezell’s departure. Initially, when called, she said she could not talk about the subject and referred the reporter to Raymond McClendon, president and chief operating officer for the company.

Later Hoffman called back with the no comment from McClendon.

When asked if Gourmet Services would keep the contract, Hoffman replied, “At this time.”

Mayor George Evans was out of town and did not return calls to his cell phone.

In recent months, the St. James had cut back on some of its services in the food and beverage department. Some who have stayed at the hotel have complained of rooms left uncleaned and slow service.

This is not the first time the hotel’s operations have been called into question.

In 2006 Shane Anderson took over management of the hotel as the general manager for Larry Striplin, who led efforts to renovate the structure in 1996 with the help of an investment group. Anderson, maintenance manager James Pitts and Jackson Hospitality managed the hotel for a nominal $100 paid to the city, which owns the property.

But in 2007 business began to drop off. The hotel closed its bar and dining room, which were two entities that attracted Gourmet Services.

Gourmet Services oversaw all the renovations to the property and operated it. Until Friday, Ezell was in charge.

Ezell could not be reached for comment.