Basalt’s Workers for Justice sticks with their lawyer
Eight families remaining in the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park continue to seek legal representation from an Aspen law firm in negotiations with the Basalt town government, a representative said Saturday.
Sophia Clark, a field organizer with Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition, said eight of the nine households in a group called Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt are “united in their call for relocation.” They want the town to provide homes rather than financial-aid packages, which they feel don’t offset the money that they have invested in their homes or provide them with a path to equivalent housing, Clark wrote in a statement.
Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition is a Denver-based nonprofit that works on immigrant issues around the state. It is providing the funds for the Workers for Justice to retain the law firm.
The majority of the Workers for Justice members reached their decision even though one of the group’s leaders decided last week to go a different direction. Ralph Vasquez informed the town government RKV Law wasn’t representing him because he wanted to continue direct negotiations with town staff over replacement housing. Direct negotiations weren’t possible because of implied litigation, he said in a letter.
Clark said the other members of Workers for Justice “respect” the decision of Vazquez but feel they are taking “the best decision for themselves.”
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said it could be a costly decision for the eight households. The town staff cannot negotiate financial settlements with the members of the eight households represented by RKV Law, he said. All contact must be between their law firm and Town Attorney Tom Smith.
In addition, no financial settlements will be made if the possibility of litigation exists, according to Scanlon. “We’re not going to pay people to sue the town,” Scanlon said in an email.
The town has withdrawn an offer to settle with one of the families in Workers for Justice. Scanlon said a $15,300 check had been written to the family but they no longer are eligible to collect it.
The town’s settlement packages have ranged between $15,000 and $25,000 per trailer. A conservative estimate is that the families are risking to leave $120,000 on the table.
The town has started the legal eviction process against all remaining Pan and Fork residents to get them out by April 1. Roughly two-thirds of the occupants of the 35 trailers have accepted a deal.
The town wants the site cleared so it can proceed with a public works project — easing the flood threat of the Roaring Fork River, constructing a riverside park and raising part of the trailer park site out of the flood plain so it can potentially be developed.
Clark said members of Workers for Justice want the town to extend the eviction deadline.
“WJDB remains strong in their demand to stay in their homes until relocation is completed and at the very least until their children finish the school year,” her statement read.
Scanlon told the group members at a previous meeting that wouldn’t be possible because of the cost to the town of delaying its project.
Statements from both Clark and Scanlon contained barbs directed at the other side’s actions.
Clark’s statement said the town isn’t doing enough to help the Pan and Fork residents.
“Promises were made to them that they would be relocated in Basalt into homes that meet the needs of the families, and the current monetary-assistance plan provided by the town of Basalt is not equivalent, but is forced removal,” Clark wrote.
Scanlon’s statement said the risk to the families being represented by RKV Law is that they will get nothing and Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition “fades away into the night, with no responsibility for their actions.”
“That’s my biggest fear right now — there are people we could be helping and we’re not going to be able to help them,” Scanlon said.
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