Saturday, August 26, 2000

Trailer park ordered closed

Judge cites unsanitary water system

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BIG BONE, Ky. — It looked as if Rachel Klette was throwing a party Friday afternoon in her fenced back yard at the Hillside Mobile Home Park.

[photo] Jean Haines (left), 71, and Betty Silkwood, 69, wonder what they will do if forced to leave Hillside Mobile Home Park in Big Bone, Ky.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Park residents Rose Cowan and Katie Saylor offered green Kool-Aid and black coffee to the adults and kids walking through the gate and past the dogs and cats that have adopted Mrs. Klette's yard as their own.

        “All the kids, all the pets, they just kind of hang out here,” said Mrs. Klette, who manages the park of 37 mobile homes.

        “We're just kind of like a big family down here.”

        But even families come apart. And that's what might happen to the 103 people who live in the trailer park.

        The residents gathered in Mrs. Klette's yard Friday not to party, but to talk somberly about whether they'll even have homes next week.

        On Aug. 1, Boone County Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger ordered that the park owned by James Hicks of Kenton County be closed because of unsafe drinking water and other environmental problems.

        The order was granted at the request of the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department.

        The judge's order states the park must be closed by Sept. 1. While the order is not an eviction notice, it means Mr. Hicks can no longer operate the park or its spring-fed water and sanitation systems, Mrs. Klette said.

        “People just don't know what to do,” she said.

        “We didn't find anything about this until last week, and most people think we have to be out of here by Sept. 1.”

        Calls to Mr. Hicks' home were not answered.

        On Friday, the residents had hoped to hear good news from social worker Cheryl Butler of the Florence office of the state Cabinet for Families and Children.

        She met with residents and had some encouraging news.

        “(Mr. Hicks) is trying to find an attorney and get an extension from the court,” Ms. Butler said.

        “And I'm talking to the county and the state about what else can be done to help out. But right now we're just waiting for something to happen.”

        In the meantime, Ms. Butler advised residents to consider finding other housing.

        She passed out a list of apartments in Northern Kentucky where residents receive reduced or free rent through government assistance.

        But most residents say they do not want to leave or are unable to move.

        Many live on low or fixed incomes. Several are unable to work because of disabilities including injured backs, heart problems and other ailments.

        “I bought my trailer,” said Ms. Cowan, 34.

        “But it's older, and other trailer parks won't take it because it's too old. And how am I going to afford to move my things?”

        “I have six dogs,” said bricklayer Kevin Gordon, 28, who can work only when the weather permits. “Nobody is going to take me in an apartment with six dogs. And I ain't giving them up.”

        Some of the residents suspect they are being forced from the park because nearby Big Bone Lick State Park wants to expand.

        “They want to kick us out and park RVs here,” said Joe Eversole, 21. “That's not right.”

        Park officials could not be reached for comment.

        Ms. Butler said she has heard nothing from state or county officials indicating that park planners want the land.

        Residents acknowledged the drinking water has tested positive for contaminants. And letters distributed to residents by the Boone County Sheriff's Office show a history of environmental problems involving the park's sanitation and water systems.

        Alan Goins, 24, a resident who sells water purification systems, said he tested the trailer park's water several times in the past week and found no major problems. The water is treated before residents drink it.

        “It's no worse than what you'd find anywhere else around here,” he said, “even in Covington. And they drink water from the Ohio River, which is a lot dirtier than what we have here.”

        Still, a number of residents said they plan to boil or buy water.

        Others said they will wait to see what happens.

        “We don't have much here, but we have each other,” Mr. Gordon said. “That ought to mean something.”


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