Funding OK'd to buy out flood-prone mobile home park

August 01, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Thirteen months ago, they were flooded out of their homes.

Now, residents of the Northwood Mobile Home Park face the possibility of being bought out of the flood-prone development north of Chambersburg.

Greene Township has been approved for a $2.3 million grant to buy out the mobile-home owners and the property on which the homes sit, according to a press release issued Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster's office.

The total package, with a 25 percent matching grant from Pennsylvania, is $3,118,650, said Jeff Urbanchuk, press secretary for Shuster, R-Pa.


"I'm perfectly OK to sell the sucker and head for the hills," said Dave Heaton, who has lived in Northwood for eight years. "I've had a headache with that thing ever since it flooded," he said, pointing to his home, which still shows evidence of water damage.

In late June 2006, days of heavy rains caused the banks of the Conococheague Creek to overflow, forcing residents from their homes at three mobile home parks in Greene Township - Northwood, Lincoln Dell and Village Green Manor. High water left homes waterlogged, vehicles disabled and sent propane and oil tanks floating down the creek.

Many of the residents without insurance were able to get assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make repairs to their trailers.

"We got money from FEMA, but it didn't cover what we remodeled, so we had to dump more money into it," said Deborah Coons, a resident for two years. She and her husband, John, had remodeled their home and were shopping around for insurance when the flood hit, she said.

"That might not be a bad thing, because if there was another flood, I don't know if I could take it," Coons said about the possibility of moving.

"I don't like the way this is unfolding," Township Supervisor Charles D. Jamison said. The press release from Shuster's office came out before the township was notified, he said.

"We haven't even talked to the residents yet," Jamison said.

Township officials are to meet today with Nick Kalathas, the owner of the 58-lot mobile home park, he said.

Northwood residents said Kalathas was out of the state Tuesday.

The program

Jamison said the township applied for the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program after last summer's floods. The program allows FEMA to buy "at-risk properties" so owners can afford to move to safer locations, while restoring the land to "permanent open space," according to Shuster's press release.

Township officials at this point do not know what procedures will have to be followed to acquire the land and pay for the residents to either move their mobile homes to new locations or for the township to purchase them from the owners, Jamison said. They will have to sit down with state and federal officials to find out the procedures and timeline for acquiring the land and compensating the mobile-home owners, he said.

"Most of these trailers are too old to be moved," Heaton said. Norm Starliper said the home he has lived in for almost 10 years was manufactured in 1971.

The cost of moving a home can come to several thousand dollars with new regulations that require more substantial foundations, a cost Heaton said is often paid by the mobile-home owner, not the park owner.

"I had insurance, not like many of those here," said Yvonne Meredith, who was skimming her above-ground pool. She has lived in the park since 1990 and her home stands in contrast to many others, with its landscaping and flower-adorned deck.

"They're welcome to mine. If they give me enough money, I'll go anywhere. I'd like to get out from under it," Meredith said. Meredith estimated she has $35,000 invested in her home, but other residents have not been forced to keep up their properties.

Others feel differently.

"Our trailer is going to be paid for in December," said Elizabeth Forbus, a resident of five years. She figured on living here several more years before saving up to buy another home.

"We just bought it last year," Bonnie Gearhart said of her home, for which she paid $4,000 and paid another $1,500 to improve.

"They should give people plenty of time to get situated," Gearhart said.

For families with children and pets, finding a new home with whatever money they get from the government could prove difficult, Ray Brown said.

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