Thursday, August 31, 2000

Mobile home park fights ouster

Judge to decide extension request

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — The owner of a Boone County mobile home park ordered closed because of environmental problems has asked a judge for an extension to keep it open.

        Boone Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger, who ordered the park to be closed as of Friday, is to hear a request for the extension from Florence attorney William Knoebel at 11:45 a.m. today.

        Mr. Knoebel is representing James Hicks of Kenton County, the owner of the Hillside Mobile Home Park in southern Boone County, near Big Bone Lick State Park.

        Mr. Hicks is asking that an injunction against the park be lifted while he appeals the court ruling, Judge Bamberger said Wednesday.

        On Aug. 1, Judge Bamberger ordered the mobile home park 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.

        While the judge's order is not an eviction notice, it means Mr. Hicks can no longer operate the park or its spring-fed water and sanitation systems.

        Mr. Knoebel said that at the very least Mr. Hicks wants to keep the park open. However, if it must be closed, he wants residents to have more time to relocate.

        “I think the health department has some legitimate concerns about the situation at the trailer park,” Mr. Knoebel said Wednesday. “But (Mr. Hicks) does not want the park closed and wants to try and bring the park in compliance.”

        Residents are fighting to remain at the park.

        “We collected petitions from people who want to stay and we're going to give them to the judge,” said resident Rachel Klette, the park's manager.

        “We're fighting,” she said. “We're not giving up. There are a lot of people praying that this will be worked out so we can stay.”

        Residents say they believe the water is safe to drink. But some other residents have already moved and others have inquired about finding other housing, said Cheryl Butler, a state social worker who has been trying to help the residents.

        “We're continuing to work with the families at the park,” Ms. Butler, of the state Cabinet for Families and Children office in Florence, said Wednesday. “A few of them have filed for (subsidized) housing and they are moving forward on that.”

        But Ms. Butler estimated only about 12 or 13 of the nearly 40 families in the park qualify for assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

        She has provided a list of subsidized apartments to residents but few have acted.

        “It seems like many of the residents aren't taking the public health warnings seriously,” Ms. Butler said. “They are not all that motivated to move. They still believe Mr. Hicks will prevail.”

        “Why should we have to move?” Mrs. Klette said. “We like it here. These are our homes. This is our community. We haven't gotten sick from the water. And most people don't want to move.”


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