Trash scattered around dumpsters and demolished mobile homes sitting in piles amidst occupied but rundown older-model mobile homes dot the landscape of Westside Mobile Home Park in the Sinai community of South Boston.
No new tenants are moving into the park, and at times, tenants abandon a mobile home without even a word to the property owners. Chaparral Investments, Inc., the company that manages the mobile home park, is spending more money maintaining the park than the revenue it is earning from the park. But it has not always been that way at Westside. That’s why property owner Wayne Stevens cannot bear the thought of closing the mobile home park and forcing the tenants who have lived there for years to find another home.
Tammy Dunn, president of Chaparral Investments, shared that information about Westside with the South Boston Town Council members at a Monday evening work session.
“Our revenue is regularly dropping; our expenses are regularly adding up. Last year we lost $52,000,” Dunn said. “There are no new tenants. We’re losing tenants, but we’re not gaining tenants. There’s no growth.”
Between the loss of revenue and the problems with improper trash disposal and some tenants not properly maintaining their mobile homes and lots, Dunn said the obvious solution would be to close the park. But she said Stevens does not want to do that because he remembers a time when the park was profitable, and some of the tenants do take pride in their homes at Westside and have nowhere else to go.
“A lot of those mobile homes are older than 1980, and they can’t be moved because of the age of the homes. Even if they could, our tenants can’t afford it. It costs a lot of money to move a mobile home,” Dunn explained. “We’ve got tenants who have lived there since I’ve been with the company, and I’ve been with the company for 18 years.”
Although Westside is within the South Boston town limits, Dunn said the company contracts with a private company – First Piedmont of Danville – for removal of trash from the dumpsters on site, at a price tag of $12,000 per year.
Councilman Tommy Elliott asked Dunn if the cost of water and sewer is included in each tenant’s rent. Dunn said each tenant is responsible for paying his or her own water and sewer bill which is separate from the rent payment, but the company ends up paying a high water bill, as well. She said she had contacted the service authority about calibrating the meter to potentially solve the problem of the steep water bills, but the calibration had yet to be done.
“If I didn’t spend so much on water bills and trash pickup, it might allow for more improvements to be made to the park,” Dunn told council. She added the company recently patched the potholes in the road at the park, at a cost of more than $5,000.
Another persistent issue at Westside that Dunn detailed for council is the improper disposal of trash. She said certain areas of the park with abandoned mobile homes have become a “gathering place” of sorts, and trash accumulates in those areas no matter how many times the area is cleaned up by management.
Councilwoman Sharon Harris asked Dunn how often Westside had trash pickup. Dunn replied that the park has trash pickup once a week for its three dumpsters but the problem is large items such as mattresses and TVs being placed around the dumpsters.
Dunn added that she planned to put up “No trespassing” signs in the “gathering spot” areas because of the persistent trash problem and asked the town for more police patrolling of that area, since Chaparral does not have a property manager on site at all times to police the property.
Later in the council meeting, Mayor Edward “Ed” Owens followed up with Dunn’s request by asking town manager Tom Raab to ask the police chief about increasing patrols of Westside Mobile Home Park. Raab responded that he had already asked the police chief to step up the department’s patrolling of Westside but he would follow up with his request.
Another ongoing obstacle to keeping Westside Mobile Home Park looking presentable is the process of demolishing and removing abandoned mobile homes, Dunn said. The company contracts with Jasper Pounds to demolish the mobile homes, but Dunn said Pounds’ equipment breaking down and hitting water lines during the demolition process had been a obstacle to prompt removal of the abandoned homes in the past. Last week, however, she said several abandoned mobile homes clustered in one area had been removed.
“Do you have a timeline for removing the rest of the abandoned mobile homes?” Councilman Winston Harrell asked Dunn.
She estimated the process would take “a month or two” because of other projects Pounds has going on now. She said five abandoned mobile homes still need to be removed, and they are scattered throughout the park.
“Please keep us informed of the things you’re doing and we’ll see if we can help in some way,” vice-mayor Bob Hughes told Dunn, after hearing her update on the conditions at Westside.
Hughes also asked Anthony Womack, founder of the Sinai community group Men of Sinai who was present at the meeting, if he would be willing to talk with some of the Westside residents about ways they could improve the living conditions in their community.
Womack said he would be glad to talk with the residents and help in any way that he could. He brought the conditions at Westside to town council’s attention at a May meeting, when he shared a petition signed by Sinai residents asking for improvements to be made in Sinai community.