Immigrant group explores Basalt issues | AspenTimes.com

Immigrant group explores Basalt issues

A Colorado advocacy group for immigrants is exploring whether it will intervene on behalf of residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park in relocation negotiations with the Basalt town government.

A representative of the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition has been meeting throughout the summer with residents of the mobile-home park to listen to their concerns, according to Sophia Clark, a Rocky Mountain regional organizing fellow.

"We have some pretty serious concerns about what's going on," Clark said.

She said she's attended two meetings organized by the town government to inform residents about the relocation underway from the Pan and Fork. Each meeting was attended by 10 to 15 residents, just a small fraction of the population of the mobile-home park, she said. The coalition is concerned that the meetings are being scheduled when people cannot attend. In addition, Clark said there wasn't a translator to describe the complex formula the town is using to compensate Pan and Fork residents for their removal from the trailer park.

The Pan and Fork is in the floodplain, and town-commissioned studies indicate that it is in danger of catastrophic property losses in a major flood. The town and the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. purchased the mobile-home park in 2011. The mobile-home owners rent space for $650 per month.

The town is now in the process of relocating residents and removing their trailers. Negotiations are underway with the residents and owners of 11 trailers that will be removed in phase one of the project later this month.

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Families are receiving cash settlements of between $16,000 and $22,000 in addition to help searching for alternative housing if they want it, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. The town is using a formula for payments that includes size of family, length of time in the Pan and Fork and whether they rent or own.

When told of the coalition's concerns, Scanlon said the organization's assistance in communicating with residents would be welcomed.

"Any help that we can get, we're all for it," he said.

Town staff members were scheduled to meet Monday night with residents who are renters in one of the trailers. The number of residents was estimated to be between 10 and 17, Scanlon said. The town suspects the landlord has withheld information from them, so the meeting was scheduled to inform them about the need for relocation and what the town will offer. Scanlon said Danny Martinez, a Basalt community safety officer who is bilingual in English and Spanish, would attend that meeting and help with communication.

The town estimates there are 135 residents of the trailer park. There is no legal requirement to help the residents relocate, though the town has rules about replacing units that are eliminated.

Most of the residents of the mobile-home park are Hispanic.

The coalition's Clark said the organization has tracked issues surrounding the Pan and Fork for years but was asked only recently for aid from park residents. She couldn't say yet what role, if any, the coalition would play.

"At this point, I'm still gathering information," she said.

Like Scanlon, Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she would welcome the coalition in a role such as providing translation.

"That's a great idea," Whitsitt said. "I'm surprised we didn't think of it."

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