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Dozens of residents of a mobile home park in Rowan County were surprised Tuesday afternoon when their water was suddenly cut off.
And while the water is now flowing again, they're dealing with more problems with trash not being picked up and raw sewage leaking into their yards.
It's a bit of a complicated situation, but the bottom line is that the residents are stuck between two parties, one who owns the property but who has filed for bankruptcy, and county commission chairman Jim Sides who used to own the park, wants it back, but can't do anything about it until the whole park goes on the auction block next week.
Two dozen mostly Latino families live in the Green Acres Park off Sherrills Ford Road in western Rowan County, and on Tuesday they got quite a surprise, when without warning, the water was shut off by Duke Energy because the power bill had not been paid by the park's owner.
"We need water for our kids," said park resident Natividad, who lives with her three children. "For example, my son played soccer yesterday and he couldn't take a shower last night so he went to school all dirty with his knees muddy, because we didn't have no water to take showers."
The residents, who say they are paying rent to Sides, want him to fix the problems, but Sides told WBTV that since he isn't the owner of the park, he can't legally make any improvements, or even go onto the property. Sides and partners did build the park in 1983, and the road that runs to the park, BHS Road, is named for BH & S Homes, representing Sides and the partners.
BH & S sold the park to Tim Smith and arranged some financing for Smith, but Sides says Smith never paid off the amount that is owed. Sides says the court granted him the right to collect money from residents, but he says that money is to pay back what Smith owes him on the original purchase of the property.
The water is back on now, following a call from Sides to the Rowan County Health Department.
"We spoke with Tim Smith who is still the owner of the park and told him that he was the owner of the park and until otherwise he did have a duty to these people to provide them with water," said Tad Helmstettler, Environmental Health Director for the Rowan County Health Department. "And he did agree to go ahead and pay the electrical bill so that Duke Energy would turn the power back on and everybody would have water on again, and he actually did that fairly quickly."
According to tax records Smith paid $349 in taxes one year, but since then hasn't paid a dime and owes the county more than $5900. Smith is in bankruptcy and the park will be auctioned next week.
Sides hopes to buy the park back and plans to make a bid. If the bid is accepted, Sides would still be responsible for the back taxes owed on the property.
Residents say they need someone to take care of several urgent needs. The mail carrier won't deliver mail to the park anymore because the large, metal box is about to fall over and is being propped up by a stick. There appears to be raw sewage on the ground, and the trash pick up stopped, prompting residents to load up the garbage on several pick up trucks and take it to the landfill themselves.
"We have to pick up the mail, I want that fixed, I want the sewers fixed, I want the trash picked up, and I definitely want the water," Natividad added. "The water is on right now but what happens next month?"
As far as the concerns over raw sewage, Helmstettler says that will require more inspection by the Health Department.
"We'll have to issue permits, do a full park survey next week, sweep all the systems, then get permits issued on all the ones having problems," Helmstettler told WBTV. "They can flush their toilet, they've got water for bathing and cooking they've got water for their animals, yeah, that was the number one mission, we had to get the water back on."
Two residents who spoke with WBTV on Wednesday say they hope Sides will take the park back.
"I was very kind," Sides told WBTV. "I was a good landlord, I was not a slum landlord. The park is rundown, Tim has not maintained it. If I owned it I would take care of it."