COLUMBIA — The new manager at Columbia Regency Mobile home park hopes to give the property a makeover, starting with a neighborhood cleanup.
A pair of the park's many outdoor cats mewed and wrestled in the almost-green grass as Park Manager Roni Martin-Boothe and Neighborhood Response Coordinator Bill Cantin picked up piles of old mobile home skirting from a curb and threw it into the bed of a white city truck.
Martin-Boothe started managing the park in October and said its been an uphill battle to try to clean up the park's property and its reputation.
"It's not just about the trash, it's about making people feel safe," she said. "I see being manager as making sure it's a good community. I ask myself 'Would I want to live here?'"
Last year, Regency held the record for the highest number of police calls to the area — more than 800 — and several tenants have complained of astronomical electric bills and unsafe living conditions, according to a previous Missourian report.
Despite the problems, Martin-Boothe and a handful of tenants seemed hopeful that there will be positive changes in the future.
The new manager said she started by organizing the paperwork in the office and evicting tenants she believed were bad for the park, such as those that didn't pay rent consistently or had the police called to their homes repeatedly.
Martin-Boothe said she's evicted tenants at about 12 of the mobile homes in the last five months and plans to evict about 10 more in the coming months. There are more than 200 mobile homes in the park.
Next, she searched online for ways she could motivate residents to keep the park looking nicer. She found that Columbia's Office of Neighborhood Services offers a free cleanup service.
"We have a budget of about $3,000 a year for these cleanups," Cantin said. Neighborhood Services pays the Department of Public Works to bring giant trash bins for residents to put debris in.
About 200 violations relating to trash problems and unkempt property were issued at the park by Neighborhood Services last year, Cantin said.
For members of the park, the trash bins add extra incentive to do some spring cleaning.
"It would cost me ten dollars to bring a truckload of stuff to the city dump myself," said Doug Harris, a resident at Regency since 1986. "I've already saved about $30."
Harris said his home was once in "the premier park in Columbia." He said the park's current condition didn't happen overnight, but the cleanup was a step in the right direction.
Martin-Booth also said she's working on removing some of the abandoned or dilapidated mobile homes in order to make room for newer and nicer homes. Trimming trees and making sure the pool opens on time are also on her to-do list.
Besides Martin-Boothe, Cantin, two maintenance workers and two or three volunteers who either walked or drove around picking up trash from the curbs or litter in yards, the park was quiet in the early hours of the cleanup.
As time went by, though, people either brought trash to the bins themselves or poked their heads out of doors to ask if they could get some help later.
Martin-Boothe is offering a gift basket and other incentives to the resident with the cleanest, best kept lot. She said residents could earn a month of free lot rent.
Cantin laughed as he wiped some mud from his jacket and said, "Who says bureaucrats don't do a little work?"