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Local News

August 14, 2010

Trailer park living can bring friendships and daily challenges

ONEONTA _ Life in a trailer park is a balancing act of living in your home while paying rent to park your house on someone else's land.

Victoria Jones said the proximity to her neighbors has led to camaraderie among tenants.

"We look out for one another," Jones said. "If someone needs to go shopping I take them, or I pick up things when I am going out."

Seven years ago, when Jones bought her trailer in Melody Village Trailer Park on state Route 7 in Oneonta, she wasn't aware that her biggest problem would be the decades-old septic system beneath her home.

Jones said she believes the trailer had been parked in Lot 14 for more than 20 years when she bought it.

The bottom of the trailer is surrounded by skirting, and its wheels are long gone.

"It may be called a mobile home, but it can't be moved," she said.

Jones said she pays $265 a month for the lot. Water and septic service is supposed to be included, but her septic lines are broken and clogged with tree roots so water from her drains and toilet empty onto the ground between her trailer and the one parked next door.

"There is a pool of toilet paper and sewage on the ground," Jones said. "The landlord is supposed to be responsible for managing a safe and habitable park."

Jones' trailer and several of the others parked nearby are covered with black mold from the constantly wet ground.

"My trailer is ruined," she said. "There is mold inside and out. I threw my furniture out and got new things but the mold just comes back."

There is room for one parked car in the narrow lots. Although there is no parking allowed along the roadways, residents often have problems with parked cars blocking driveways.

She said keeping lawns mowed is the responsibility of the homeowner, but there is a maintenance man who plows the narrow roads during winter.

Jones said he is supposed to deal with problems with the water and septic systems.

Harry Finch, 46, the former maintenance man, lives on Lot 16. Finch said he injured his back twice digging up the aging septic systems. He said he could no longer do the job after he had a heart attack.

"I dug so much people began calling me the gopher," Finch said. "But the septic system is just too old. It needs to be replaced."

Finch said he worked in the park for a few months before he decided to buy a trailer and move in. At that time Don Ball owned the park, but he sold it to Erik Knudson, who recently sold it to Robert Phelan of Yorktown Heights.

"I wish people would see the park the way I see it," Finch said. "I take pride in what I do to make the park look good. I like to see to the needs of the tenants."

Finch said he still does private maintenance for people in the park, mowing lawns and doing minor repairs.

"I take care of private people in the park," Finch said. "I like to befriend everyone."

The new trailer park maintenance man is Tim Stilson, but he doesn't have a listed phone number.

Jones said when she complained to Stillson and Knudson about the problems with her septic, she was told her cat had broken the sewer lines.

She said a neighbor who complained was told to stop flushing insulation and baby wipes down the toilet _ something Jones said she had never done.

Jones and Finch said the tenants recently received letters telling them the park was sold and is now owned by Phelan. They said they have been unable to reach Phelan because the only phone number they have is a number that connects to a fax machine.

Jones said she has been in touch with numerous agencies about the sewage problems but hasn't had any luck finding a solution.

"We are not out to get the landlord," Finch said. "We just need to get the problems fixed."

Attempts to call Phelan were unsuccessful.

Patricia Breakey can be reached at 865-5175 or at patriciabreakey@yahoo.com.

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