Pan and Fork evictions begin
February 1, 2014
The day of reckoning arrived Thursday for remaining residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park who have resisted relocation.
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon informed the residents at a meeting Thursday night that the town government will start the formal eviction process against them this weekend. They will receive notices on their doors that they must be out of their homes by April 1, he said.
“We have never wanted to evict anyone,” Scanlon said.
However, he said the town has been consistently saying since a meeting on Aug. 5that April 1 was the deadline for getting out.
The town is undertaking a project that involves easing the flood risk of the Roaring Fork River, restoring riverbanks, building a riverside park and raising the level of developable land at the Pan and Fork. Scanlon said there is no feasible way to delay the contractor and give the residents more time at the trailer park without costing taxpayers $600,000 to $1.2 million in extra project expenses.
Instead, he urged the residents to work with town Finance Officer Judi Tippetts on financial packages for relocation that have ranged between $15,000 and $25,000 per trailer so far. If the town must pursue the legal eviction process into March, it will eat into the amount the residents are eligible to receive, he said.
Pan and Fork had 37 trailers. Scanlon said the eviction process will start against 17, although residents of some of those have initiated negotiations with the town.
Residents of about 10 of the trailers have banded together in a group called Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt to give them a greater voice. Several members affirmed Thursday night that they want to continue collective bargaining.
Ricardo Gonzales, a member of the group, said he worked hard to buy a home for his family of five. Giving that up for $15,000 or so isn’t fair, he said.
Gonzales put Scanlon on the spot by asking him what he would do if he were in their position.
“I would probably do what you’re doing,” Scanlon acknowledged.
But he defended the town’s action. The government has helped about 250 people relocate since mid-September, he said, and it has budgeted $1 million for relocation costs for residents. That money will be spent, he said.
Felipe Martinez said the town’s actions have created a major disruption for his family. He estimated he invested $50,000 in his home. His two sons, both graduates of Basalt High School, are attending Colorado State University. Martinez said the town’s process wasn’t fair because people who rented at the trailer park — and allegedly some who weren’t residents — were given money to relocate.
“You guys gave money to people that didn’t even live here,” he said.
Scanlon acknowledged there was fraud early on but he claimed the town tightened the verification process. He also said they had to come up with a process that was equitable for the large number of renters.
Members of the group peppered Scanlon with questions about fairness of the town’s actions, but the fact remained that they have two months to leave. Scanlon stressed that the town is trying to work with partners to build an affordable-housing project. Pan and Fork residents will have the highest priority to get into the rental units, he vowed.
Scanlon also tried to relate to the residents by noting that he, too, must vacate his condominium. He received notice that it sold, and he must vacate by May 1.
“So I know what it means to be told to move,” he said.
Scanlon acknowledged he likely has more options than many of the Pan and Fork residents.