05/29/08 — Law could demolish mobile eyesores

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Law could demolish mobile eyesores

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 29, 2008 2:36 PM

A bill under consideration in the General Assembly would provide money for counties to do away with abandoned mobile homes -- an issue that Wayne County officials say is not yet a major concern for the county.

The measure would establish a Manufactured Homes Management Account. Revenues would be generated by a new "environmental remediation" tax on manufactured homes.

A $300 tax would be levied on each new or used single-wide manufactured home and for each section of a new or used multi-section one. The tax would be paid only once on each manufactured home throughout its useful life.

Counties would not be required to participate under the current wording of the bill, but they would have to state in their comprehensive solid waste management plan that they chose not to do so.

If a county decides to implement the program, it will be required to develop a written plan for the management of abandoned manufactured homes.

The account would provide grants to counties to reimburse expenses and for technical assistance and support to achieve the program goals. It would also assist with implementing the program including costs associated with staffing, training, submitting reports and fulfilling program goals.

According to the proposed legislation, and based on U.S. Census Bureau data, there are more than 80,000 vacant manufactured houses in the state -- 40,000 of which are estimated to be permanently unattended or in need of extensive repairs.

Along with being a "visual blight", the houses create public health and environmental problems, according to the bill. The legislation also labels them as a potential source of toxic or hazardous waste. Furthermore, it adds, the houses are a fire and safety hazard.

Wayne County Planner Connie Price said he does not have any statistics on the number of such structures in the county.

"It is a problem, but I am not sure how big of one it is. Of course, if one is near your home, it is a big problem," Price said

Wayne County Commissioner Efton Sager told his fellow board members at last week's board meeting that there are several stripped-down mobile home frames near his home. He made his comments during a conversation among commissioners about an increase in copper thefts in the county.

Sager said he suspects that some of the vacant mobile homes were in such bad condition because people were salvaging recyclable materials to sell.

It is estimated in the bill that between 26 to 38 percent of a manufactured house can be removed for recycling "without a lot of manual labor."

"Originally, the big problem was junked cars," Sager told the News-Argus. However, because of the increase in the price of scrap metal, the junked vehicles are not as much of a problem since people are selling them, he pointed out.

Sager said he is concerned about any proliferation of vacant rundown manufactured houses.

While the county does not have a housing code, Price said that an effort has been made to improve the standards to be followed when a manufactured home is set up. Also, if there has been no electrical service to a structure for a year or longer, the county has to conduct an inspection before power can be restored.

"If one (dilapidated house) is sitting in the woods falling apart, then it just falls apart," he said.

Price said the problems with the county getting into policing a housing code are money and manpower -- both of which are in short supply in tight budget times.

He said that most people realize that the county does not have a "lot of power in the county and I think most people like it that way."

At one time there were a number of stick-built houses in the county that were considered dilapidated, he said.

"Fire departments have burned a lot of them for training," Price said. "So, we don't have a lot of old houses in need of repair in the county."