Saturday, March 29, 1997
Inspectors have more bad news
Edict: Move mobile homes or elevate

Enquirer contributor

NEW RICHMOND - Bill Watson stood at the end of Market Street on Friday afternoon and watched as inspectors from the Clermont County Building Department headed his way.

''Here they come to put me out of business,'' said Mr. Watson, who owns a three-unit mobile home park. ''This is all I needed today.''

Officials from the Clermont County General Health District accompanied the inspectors, who were surveying recent flood damage to the village's five mobile home parks, which hold a total of about two dozen homes.

They came to deliver bad news to park operators: Either move the mobile homes out, or elevate them as much as 10 feet to avoid flooding problems in the future.

That edict came down this week from the Ohio Department of Health, which licenses and regulates the parks. The county officials, who must enforce the state's regulations, met with park operators early Friday to deliver letters from the health department, then made inspections to condemn those mobile homes too damaged to repair.

''You're not going to like what we have to tell you,'' Rob Perry, director of the health department's environmental services division, said to the operators. ''It's not good news, but we are only the messengers.''

Mr. Watson and the other operators were upset at the prospect of spending thousands of dollars to comply with the order, or go out of business.

Most own the mobile homes and rent them out. They also lease land to privately owned mobile homes.

''Did you bring your checkbook with you?'' Mr. Watson asked angrily during the meeting at Village Hall. ''If you're going to put me out of business, then you need to pay me for the wages I'm about to lose.''

What upset park operators most was that other residences and businesses in the village will not be subject to the state's elevation requirement.

''We are being held to a different standard than even somebody in a lower-lying spot than us,'' said Joseph Middler, who owns a seven-unit park. ''This is just unfair. It's singling us out because we have mobile homes.''

David Kennedy, village administrator, agreed that the mobile home parks might be unfairly targeted. ''This is a system that stinks,'' said Mr. Kennedy, who is inspecting and condemning some conventional homes as the community's flood plain administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

''Some of the mobile homes are better cared for than most of our regular homes,'' he said. ''But they got 2 inches of water, and that's the rule. This is not a pleasure for any of us.''

Village and county leaders will try to come up with money from FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Program to help the park owners with the improvements, Mr. Kennedy said.

But that wasn't enough to make people like Mr. Watson happy.

''I've never asked for a dime from FEMA, and I wish they would just leave me alone,'' he said. ''We were already traumatized by the flood, and now this happens.''