Problems persist at mobile park

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 26, 2009

Southwest Mobile Home Park residents Zipporah Smith, CarolynJohnson, Mahomey Jones and Karen Gayten all have something incommon besides the neighborhood they live in: a stockpile ofbottled water to be used the next time they have no running waterin their homes.

“I’ve got to come home and boil water just to take a bath,”Johnson said.

And she’s not alone.

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Jones said she and her boyfriend, who have been paying their$125 lot fee every month to landlord Dalton Lofton, finally got fedup with never knowing when the water could get cut off in spite oftheir payment.

“I had to save water, then when it would run out I’d have to buywater or get it from someone else,” she said. “We’d have to go tothe boulevard to get water if it ran out or wherever, and this timewe just decided to use our lot fee money for food and water.”

Water to Lofton’s park, which has individual water meters on thelots but only one main city meter near the street, was cut off Jan.16 because Lofton had failed to pay the water department. It wasrestored the next day after Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameronintervened.

At the time, city officials said Lofton owed about $6,000. Ithas since been paid, Cameron said.

Water Department Superintendent Lanny Dickey said previouslythat water service to the park had been cut off “a few” times inthe past over water bill issues. So residents of the trailer parkgot together and decided to do something about it.

“In December it was cut off, then it was cut right back off inJanuary, and we feel like since we had to go buy our own water, andsome people went to motels and stuff just to shower, we feel likewe aren’t going to pay January because we were cut off so manytimes,” Gayten said.

After deciding that many of them were not going to pay theirJanuary rent in protest of the recurring problem, Lofton went tothe park on Friday and began cutting off meters on individual lots.Lofton declined comment on the situation surrounding his park.

Cameron said Saturday he has been trying to find a way toimprove living standards for the residents of the park. He said hehad spoken to Police Chief Pap Henderson about what can be done inthe current situation, but that at this point the matter iscivil.

Banding together is actually something of a comfort for thepeople, Cameron said.

“He’s gotten them to a point where they’re protesting now andthey’ve got to do something and they’ve come together,” he said.”The solidarity is helping them.”

Gayten said she and her husband have never missed a payment andwere still without water when the city penalized Lofton for notpaying the bill for the park.

Smith said her 1-year-old granddaughter lives in the home withher. Besides the water problems, she said the fact that the garbagebill is never paid and the dumpster is overflowing and dirty isactually dangerous.

“It’s a health hazard to us, for sure when we’re without water,”she said.

Cameron said the situation is unacceptable.

“They’re in a bind over there. Anytime your water’s shut offit’s an inconvenience because you can’t use the commode, you can’twash, can’t cook food, and especially for the ones that have paidtheir rent and were shut off, it’s really not fair,” he said.

City Attorney Joe Fernald and Cameron are working on ideas tohelp the residents of the park legally, Cameron said. In additionto the water and garbage problems, Cameron said the potholes in theprivate drive that leads to the park have gotten out ofcontrol.

“I wish I could do something about that, some of those potholesare at least 4 inches deep, and that can ruin the front end of acar,” he said. “You’d think he could buy a little asphalt or graveland put it in those potholes. Those people have to travel that wayevery day everywhere they go.”

Ultimately, Cameron said, the city will continue looking intopossible ordinances and regulations on rental property.

“We need to make these renters and landlords in the city ofBrookhaven more accountable,” he said. “These landlords are makingprofits on this land, why not upkeep it?”