Pan and Fork negotiations back on track
Both sides in the often-contentious battle over the closing of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park in Basalt agreed Thursday that a peaceful resolution appears possible.
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said the majority of the remaining households at the trailer park have agreed not to pursue litigation against the town so that negotiations could resume. As a result, the town staff has met with or arranged to meet seven of the nine households that formed Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt, according to Scanlon.
“It seems to be moving in the right direction,” Scanlon said.
Ryan Kalamaya, an Aspen attorney working with members of Workers for Justice, agreed that progress is being made.
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“I think it’s a fair statement that we’re working together,” Kalamaya said. “Our clients are looking at other options because they’re resigned that they’re going to have to leave.”
The town started relocating residents out of their trailers in August to get them out of the floodplain and to undertake a multimillion-dollar public-works project. It is using a formula based on years in the park, size of family and whether they own or rent to determine the size of a financial relocation package with occupants of each of the 38 trailers. The packages range from $15,000 to $25,000.
Scanlon estimated that settlements have been reached or negotiations are underway with 34 of the 38 households. Seventeen of the trailers have been moved or are vacant. The town has spent more than $650,000 on relocations thus far, he said. It budgeted $1 million.
While the town government prefers using a carrot in the negotiations, it’s also wielding a stick. Eviction notices were placed on all inhabited trailers on Feb. 1 to serve the 60-day required notice of eviction in early April. Scanlon will ask the Town Council to review a resolution March 11 that says any funds spent on the legal eviction process against a household will be subtracted from a potential financial settlement. The town needs to emphasize the point that everyone must be out of the mobile home park by April 1 so work to ease the flood threat of the Roaring Fork River and restore its banks can be completed, Scanlon said.
“Drawing a line is a necessity to get the trailers moved from the park,” he said.
Kalamaya said most of the families he has consulted want the town to provide them with replacement housing similar in size and rent to the Pan and Fork. They contend that the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. promised to provide the replacement housing when it teamed with the town to buy the Pan and Fork.
The town government froze negotiations with members of Workers for Justice last week because of the possibility of a lawsuit. But sides pointed fingers at each other for not trying to resolve the issue. The blame game has subsided, Kalamaya said.
“I think we’ve turned over a new leaf instead of spitting vitriol at each other,” Kalamaya said.
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