06/20/08 — Wayne mobilizes on abandoned mobile homes

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Wayne mobilizes on abandoned mobile homes

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 20, 2008 1:48 PM

Now that Wayne County's efforts to rid the countryside of junked vehicles has proven effective, commissioners are once again turning their attention to eliminating another and possibly more dangerous eyesore -- abandoned and dilapidated mobile homes.

Overgrown vacant lots are attracting their attention as well.

Commissioners at their Tuesday morning session were introduced to a preliminary draft of a proposed ordinance providing for the removal and disposition of abandoned and/or dilapidated mobile homes.

No action was taken, and county Manager Lee Smith told the board he would come back with recommendations and associated costs.

County attorney Borden Parker, who had been asked to prepare the preliminary ordinance draft, said he had not been aware that commissioners were interested in the clean-up of vacant lots as well.

He said he would research the issue and make a recommendation.

Meanwhile, the state House is considering a bill encouraging counties to develop plans to demolish abandoned and/or dilapidated mobile homes and remove reusable or recyclable materials. A portion of the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund would be designated to help counties pay for those efforts.

If approved, the law would become effective March 1, 2009 and would expire October 1, 2023.

According to House Bill 1134, and based on U.S. Census figures, there are more than 80,000 vacant manufactured homes in the state -- 40,000 of which are vacant or in need of extensive repairs.

Wayne officials said they have no data on the number of such structures in the county other than it is a growing problem.

When the county first considered junked vehicles, commissioners also had looked at abandoned and dilapidated mobile homes. However, it was decided that tackling both issues at one time would not be feasible.

The proposed ordinance defines an abandoned mobile home as one that has been disconnected from proper electrical, water or sewer service for at least 120 days. A dilapidated mobile home is defined as any vacant mobile home that has any visible structural damage and/or fails to meet the county's minimum housing code and does not meet the standards for habitation.

Counties lack the condemnation laws that municipalities have at their disposal, Parker said. A municipality has the authority to condemn a house and have it torn down.

"You do not have that statutory authority," Parker told the commissioners.

"The county will have to have an inspector determine there are dangerous conditions and then condemn it and order the person to fix it. If he doesn't fix it you give him an order to fix it. If he still doesn't fix it then you can take him to court and have a judge order him to fix it or allow the county to and it then becomes a lien on the property. That is much more cumbersome and takes more time," Parker said.

"There is a stripping situation all over Wayne County for metal and certain recyclable materials," Smith noted. "The problem is there are roads you can drive down now and see eight or 10 (mobile homes) that have been stripped of the metal and now have insulation flying in the wind.

"We have got two roads right now where it is almost like a fungus moving down the road and it is getting worse by the week."

Smith estimated it would cost between $900 to $1,250 to take a singlewide mobile home down. He said most of the homes involved are singlewides.

"If somebody is not there they are going to strip it out in a heartbeat," Smith said. "Even the chassis is worth something."

Smith was questioned as to whether or not it would be practical to establish a central location to have the mobile home towed to where they could be demolished.

"We have found that it is more cost effective to do it on site since you have to clean up the site anyway," he said. "Preparing it to move costs more."

Also, in some cases the homes are in too poor condition to be towed, even if the county could find someone willing to tow it, Parker said.

Commissioner Jack Best asked Smith if the process would benefit from the county helping people pay for the demolition and disposal.

Smith said the county could pay, as an example $500, on the process.

However, he added that in a "lot of situations" the people who would be affected, "don't have the money even with the county paying part of the cost."

Smith told commissioners the county could budget money to tear down so many abandoned and dilapidated mobile homes per year.

"We could say, 'we will do 10 or 50 mobile homes this year with this much money,'" Smith said.