Sunday, February 04, 2001

Trailer park's end painful to residents

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        UNION — Carlton Rollins is upset. Like the 40 or so remaining residents at Hillside Mobile Home Park, Mr. Rollins is facing a court deadline to move out in 11 days because the park he has lived in for 16 years is being closed.

        Mr. Rollins' problem: He bought his trailer only nine months ago for $1,200 from park owner Jim Hicks, and he has been paying him $100 a month plus $175 a month to rent the lot.

        Unaware he'd soon be forced to leave, Mr. Rollins put more than $2,000 into the trailer with the purchase and new carpet, drywall and kitchen and ceiling tiles. Other residents also have paid for additions and improvements to the mostly older model trailers.

        Now, Mr. Rollins loses all that as he plans his move to an apartment in Burlington.

        “I'm mad,” Mr. Rollins said Friday. “I enjoyed it right here, but I'm mad because I lost my money.”

        Most residents have made pro visions to move but, like Mr. Rollins, they're bitter about it.

        Lenny Haynes, 40, is disabled by lung disease. He has filled two dozen or so cardboard boxes to move into an apartment in Burlington with his girlfriend.

        But her son, a 19-year-old senior at Ryle High School, will have to move in with relatives elsewhere so he can graduate. He is in the school's program for the learning disabled.

        “It's over with now,” Mr.

        Haynes said. “There's nothing we can do.”

        Not everyone is ready. Fred Colyer, a 51-year-old machine operator, is worried because he still hasn't found a new home for himself and his two cats and a dog.

        “I think a snowball's chance in hell's got a better chance,” Mr. Colyer said. “I've been as far as Carroll County.”

        Hillside, in southern Boone County, has been in trouble for about a year.

        The Northern Kentucky Independent Health District filed a complaint last year because of unsafe drinking water and problems with the sanitation system. Boone Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger originally ordered the park closed in August, but granted an extension a month later to allow Mr. Hicks to make changes to improve water and sewer.

        When that didn't happen, Judge Bamberger in December again ordered the park closed.

        Residents say they've had numerous problems looking for housing. Many live on fixed incomes. Their trailers are too old to be allowed into most mobile-home parks. Many landlords won't allow pets. And the ones that do charge rents they can't afford.

        Boone County officials said they have tried to help.

        Deputy County Administrator John Stanton said the county put together a list of services - including rental and housing assistance as well as food stamps - for Hillside residents last summer. But of then-130 people in 42 trailers only a few applied and three completed the process to receive assistance, Mr. Stanton said.

        Brad Christy, a staff attorney at the Northern Kentucky Legal Aid Society in Covington, does not represent the Hillside residents but has acted as an adviser to several. He said there are many reasons for such a low turnout, including ineligibility based on income, past problems with the system or unrelated legal trouble.

        “What we're looking to do is broaden the safety net so these folks will have something to fall back on,” Mr. Christy said.

        John Gerard “Jerry” Patten, a Fort Thomas attorney representing the health district, said the district is not trying to force residents to become homeless; it wants everyone gone by the deadline. On Thursday, he wrote a letter to Mr. Hicks about it.

        “I am very concerned because I am hearing rumors that Mr. Hicks is telling tenants that they don't have to move out on Feb. 15, 2001,” Mr. Patten wrote. “I am hopeful that these rumors are false.”

        Mr. Hicks of Morningview said he has not told anyone not to move, adding that no tenants have paid rent for January.

        Even if the park's residents all find new homes, their financial problems may follow.

        Judge Bamberger's order calls for all the trailers to be removed from Mr. Hicks' land. Mr. Hicks said he'll have to pay someone to haul off any trailers residents don't take. He added he is considering legal action against tenants to recoup that cost.

        “I'd almost have to, 'cause I don't need their junk sitting there,” he said. “I've got to pay somebody to move it.”

        Regardless of what happens, Mr. Haynes said he would like to stay in touch with his neighbors.

        “Half of them's family,” Mr Haynes said. “We're all good friends. Nobody's got anything, (but) if you need something, they'll give it to you. Where else could you live like that?”

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