Governors Recovery Office offers flood cleanup plan for Evans mobile home park

FEMA denied request for $1million in cleanup funds

The Governor's Recovery Office is applying for a federal grant to help pay for cleanup of an abandoned mobile home park, destroyed by September floods.

"We did create the program with Evans in mind," Stephanie Donner, executive director of the Governor's Recovery Office, said at a Thursday hearing with Evans residents.

Pending approval by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the grant would assist in removing debris from two flood-ravaged mobile home parks, to prevent them from becoming blight.

That was a relief to Mark Brothe, whose home is adjacent to Eastwood Village.

"We're just concerned about the stench when it gets warm and what may be growing over there, in addition to the rats," said Brothe. "We don't want to get lost in the shuffle."

Five months after the historic flooding in September, the debris from more than 200 mobile homes still covers the area.

In a letter to the property owners, the Weld County Health Department's survey of the properties revealed these findings:

"Damaged homes and other structures that may contain hazardous materials, such as asbestos and household hazardous wastes. Piles of putrescible household trash and garbage, food stuffs, and vegetable debris. Piles of construction debris and other debris providing harborage and breeding grounds for animals, rodents and other disease causing varmints. Mold impacted household furnishings, carpeting, interior walls an other building materials that were soaked by the flood waters."

Evans Mayor Lyle Achziger's office sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper saying the city has "kicked and screamed to get resources." The city requested $1 million for debris removal, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied.

John Mills, a FEMA spokesman, said it has given more than $4 million in aid to people who lived in the mobile home parks and $4 million more in projects around the city of Evans on public property, such as the wastewater treatment plant and Riverside Park.

"The mobile home parks are privately owned," said Mills. "Private businesses are typically responsible for removing debris from private property."
 

Meanwhile, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are calling on FEMA to make public assistance available to help Evans clean up its mobile homes in the Bella Vista and Eastwood Village parks.

In a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, the senators wrote,  "The FEMA Disaster Assistance Policy entitled 'Debris Removal from Private Property' (DAP9523.13) establishes criteria to evaluate the eligibility of debris removal from private property for reimbursement. These criteria include the elimination of immediate threats to life, public health, and safety; elimination of immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property; or to ensure economic recovery of the affected community. The policy makes clear that any one of these three criteria is sufficient to obtain FEMA public assistance. In the City of Evans, debris removal would address an immediate threat to public health and safety and would facilitate the economic recovery of the community."

But Mills said FEMA does debris removal on private property only in rare cases.

"Typically, the debris would be spread across a wide area and might shut down the economic force of the city," said Mills. "Here in Evans, we're very happy to see the recovery well under way with businesses open again. Also, the debris would need to present an immediate threat to human life and here you can see at these mobile home parks, the debris is concentrated right in the parks."

 

Mills said FEMA is just one part of the recovery solution, and there are other federal, state and local resources that people can draw on for relief.

 

Achziger said the city is appealing FEMA's decision and trying to have the property condemned through code violations, "but that could take years."

The owner of the Eastwood Village Estates Mobile Home Park is suing the city, saying the city will no longer allow him to use the property in the future for business purposes, but insists he pay for the entire cleanup.

The company's attorney writes: "The now-abandoned mobile homes on the site do not belong to the Eastwood Village Estates Mobile Home Park owner. They belong to former residents who have since relocated. As a result, the owner has asked the state to designate the mobile homes as abandoned, so he can access them without risk of liability to the mobile home owners. The state has not yet made the designation, so the owner cannot take any actions to enter or demolish the mobile homes without prior authorization required by state law, without risk of possible liability from the mobile home owners."