Plymouth mobile home park residents evicted en masse
By Friday, the residents of the Country Courts mobile home park were on the move, piling belongings into the back of pickups and into car trunks.
There wasn’t much time to waste: Country Courts owner E. James Skarda of Sussex told the residents they had until the end of the month to get out of their homes.
It’s an abrupt end to a saga that started almost two years ago when a violent assault brought problems at the trailer park at 3119 S. Old Highway 11 to the attention of the Plymouth Town Board.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office was dealing with an increased number of calls, and the health department found people living in trailers that had previously been ruled uninhabitable.
A sewer system bubbling over, serious problems with water pipes and a variety of other code violations motivated the town board to review Skarda’s mobile home park permit.
In June, after more than a year of trying to get Skarda to bring the park up to minimum standards, the board revoked his permit.
Skarda appealed the revocation in Rock County Court, but his case was dismissed. He appealed. The appeal is still pending.
After the town board revoked the permit in June, park residents wondered what they should do.
Town Chairman Larry Harding said the town wasn’t interested in pushing people out of their homes. Rock County social service agencies would have to be notified to help residents with relocation.
On Friday, Harding said the town board didn’t know anything about the eviction notices. He said the board had been waiting for the appellate court to issue a ruling.
The Gazette was not able to reach Skarda on Friday.
Bob Cook, who has lived at Country Courts since 1993, thought Skarda’s appeal meant he was interested in keeping the park open.
“You would think that’s what it meant, wouldn’t you?” Cook said.
He loves his mobile home.
“This used to be a really good place to live,” Cook said. “It was quiet and clean, and you could hunt out in the fields.”
Earlier Friday, Cook was out looking at homes with Janesville Realtor Henry Londo.
They found one in Brodhead that might be just the thing. But even if Cook decides to buy the home, there’s no way the bank could turn around the paperwork by the end out the month, Londo said.
Like many of the residents of the park, Cook owns his mobile home and pays rent to Skarda for a spot in the park.
“I have some land up north, but I’d have to pay to get it up there,” Cook said. “It’s almost not worth it.”
Other residents don’t have that option.
Sam Woollums said it would cost at least $1,500 to move his home. That’s not in his budget.
It’s not in his neighbor’s budget, either.
“He just put up new vinyl siding,” Woollums said. “I bet he’s got $40,000 in the place.”
Cook plans to consult a lawyer, to see if he can be compensated for some of his losses.
Woollums just finished paying off his mobile home last year, and now he’s going to lose it.
He was surprised by the abruptness of the eviction notices.
“He’s owned the place for 20 years, and he waits until January, the coldest month of the year to close it,” Woollums said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Owner: Park is for sale
Along with eviction notices, Skarda sent Country Court mobile home park residents unsigned letters telling them that he had listed the park for sale.
“This is what town Chairman Larry Harding said that a new owner would have to meet the following conditions to get a license for the park,” the letters read.
Harding said Friday that he had not sent Skarda a list of requirements to get his permit back, nor had he spoken with Skarda or his attorney. The town board would have to decide on any such requirements, he said.
Among the requirements listed in Skarda’s letter are:
-- Blacktopping the streets.
-- Signing all tenants to one-year leases.
-- Evicting tenants if police are called three times.
-- Replacing all water pipes at a cost of $60,000.
-- Bringing the park up to electrical code.
-- Complying with state Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection rules.
-- Removing unoccupied trailers.
The letter indicates the state Department of Natural Resources wants $5,000 to test the wells for chemicals.
In order to meet those expenses, Skarda wrote, he would have to raise the rent “so much that it would not be affordable for you.”