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City votes to condemn mobile home park

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The Roswell City Council has voted to condemn a mobile home park and some of its onsite cottages, which tenants said will affect about 25 adults and several youth. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Residents will not be forced to move for eight weeks

The adults and children living at the Village Mobile Home Park on East Bland Street have received a guarantee that the city will not force anyone to move for eight weeks, even after the Roswell City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to condemn the property because city officials have declared the area unsafe.

“We will take no action on this property for those eight weeks,” City Manager Joe Neeb said. “No one will be removed off that property for eight weeks.”

Later in the meeting, he and Councilor Jason Perry clarified that action will be taken by public safety officers to remove somebody if he or she is violating laws or presents a danger to the public.

The Village Mobile Home Park at 1114 E. Bland St. was among the 12 properties that councilors approved for condemnation. The property includes mobile homes, recreational vehicles and detached units. According to speakers at the meeting, about 24 adults and several children live there.

Maria Griego, a lawyer with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said some Village Mobile Home Park tenants had received “red tag” condemnation notices after an Oct. 13 Public Safety Committee meeting. The notices indicated that people should leave in 15 days. She said state law requires at least 30 days’ notice for mobile home dwellers.

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“Folks got notice about condemnation without fully understanding the process,” she said, adding that a person who requested a hearing was denied one, probably because the City Council had not voted yet. “There were a number of problems that happened here with due process and fairly letting folks know that they could show. No one even received notice of this meeting tonight.”

She said tenants eventually heard about the council meeting, but had not received formal notice from the city about it.

Six tenants spoke to councilors and the mayor, all asking for more time to find other places to live.

Many of the tenants described their struggles with health problems, disabilities or finances. Most also agreed that the property had significant problems, including squatters who had moved into abandoned structures or vehicles and sometimes caused problems for the regular tenants.

Bill Bartlett, city code enforcement supervisor, said the property had sewage on the ground, dumpsters overflowing with trash, human waste and needles. He said 90% of the units had code violations and many were determined to be uninhabitable. He also said city employees had found that some people had been living in tents and vehicles.

Bartlett said he had made several unsuccessful efforts to contact the property owner in New York City or to locate someone with legal authority for the property.

Neeb said questions exist about where rent has been going, given that the city is owed more than $2,000 for water. Chaves County property tax records also show a delinquent tax bill of $6,271 that had been posted on Friday. According to that document, taxes have been owed since 2016.

Kimberly Trujillo was among the tenants who said she understood the city’s decision, but needed additional time.

“I am not here to disagree with any of your decisions or anything because I acknowledge that the park has a lot of issues, but I do come before you just to request some time to find a suitable home for my child,” she said, explaining that she lives in one of the cottages with her 2-year-old.

On the property Thursday afternoon was a mother of five, Savannah Tyler, who said she hopes the situation will be a “blessing in disguise” as she prepares to live with a family member.

She said she had moved to the Village after a divorce as she sought to rebuild her life. She said her mother had lived in the area as a child. “It wasn’t much, but it was our home,” she said.

Her unit was habitable, she said, with running water, electricity and a working stove. She also said that she and others had tried to clean up the park property and felt hampered by a lack of city response to their requests for help.

At the meeting, several community volunteers and a local housing official also spoke about their efforts to help residents find other housing.

Chris Herbert, executive director of the Eastern Regional Housing Authority, said that a government condemnation action will authorize his agency to provide additional subsidies to those required to move who also meet income eligibility requirements.

“In any case of condemnation, particularly in a large group of people, there are regulations that allow us to use some of our disaster funds to assist folks,” he said.

He said he has received some names of people affected and that his agency will contact them about providing funds. He also said the agency would identify available and affordable housing units as well.

Local homeless advocates Kerry Moore, Jeneva Martinez and Enrique Moreno of the Roswell Community Disaster Relief Services described their efforts since Monday to assist in relocating people. Martinez noted that part of the problem is that Roswell does not have a lot of affordable housing available.

“I strongly encourage Code Enforcement or the (Public) Safety Committee or anyone on the council to reach out to some of these hands-on advocates or organizations so we can act quicker, you know, when the 30-day (notice), when it was actually posted,” said Martinez. “It wouldn’t have become this full-blown crisis.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.