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El Ray park owner uninterested in delaying closure

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 | 8:07 p.m. CST; updated 9:27 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 7, 2011

COLUMBIA — El Ray Mobile Home will still close March 1, despite efforts by the county to push the closure to June.

Whirlwind Properties, the owner of El Ray, announced in late October it was closing the park because its sewer lagoon could no longer meet the needs of El Ray residents.

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The Boone County Commission, on behalf of Grass Roots Organizing and residents of El Ray, asked that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources extend El Ray's wastewater permit expiration date from March 22 to June 1 in an effort to keep the mobile home park open longer.

In a letter to the Natural Resources Department dated Nov. 21, the commission said it hoped to avoid displacing residents and their children before the end of the school year. The commission also said it was worried that moving during the winter would be difficult for families. 

Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said the wastewater permit's March 21 expiration date had continued to come up as a reason for the park closing March 1. Miller said the Department of Natural Resources has since told her that it cannot consider a request for a permit extension on behalf of anyone other than the owner. 

El Ray manager and co-owner Ron Netemeyer said that even if the wastewater permit were extended, he would still close the mobile home park March 1. 

"Quite frankly, most of the homes have already been moved, " he said. 

When El Ray residents were notified that the Mexico Gravel Road park was closing, they were offered the opportunity to relocate to either Sunset or Ed's Mobile Home Park, both on Lenoir Street and owned by Whirlwind Properties. If residents chose to move to one of the parks, their lot rent and paid fees would be waived for the first three months. 

Netemeyer said his company has now started helping residents cover the expense of moving their trailers. Whirlwind is moving the homes of good tenants who are up todate on their rent at the company's expense. Netemeyer said they've moved at least five mobile homes so far, and that he hopes to be able to move 10 homes total. 

"We're probably going to put out at least $20,000 to help residents," Netemeyer said. Although the help is generally in lieu of the three months free rent at Ed's or Sunset, Netemeyer said the decision is made case by case.

"We try to do our best to help our residents," he said. 

Representatives of Grass Roots Organizing could not be reached for comment.

As the park gets ready to close, Netemeyer said the biggest challenge has been former residents abandoning their trailers — and their trash. 

Whirlwind Properties has been issued at least two public nuisance citations for trash and discarded debris left at El Ray, including tires, building debris and furniture.

"We're working to clean up the lots as quickly as we can," Netemeyer said. 

The Boone County Commission will hold a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in its chambers at the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center to determine whether a violation exists. 

Netemeyer, who said he will not be at the hearing, said he hopes the debris at El Ray is cleared by the end of the weekend. Miller said the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services will inspect the property on the morning of the hearing. 

If the commission decides Whirlwind is violating the county's nuisance ordinance and the problem is not fixed, the commission can remove the nuisance itself and charge Whirlwind to cover the cost.

Miller said the violations are "serious," because the more you let junk pile, the more other people think piling junk is OK. 

"Part of it is residents that have left a mess, and part of that is probably because they're mad," she said. "But it's still the landlord's responsibility for the property." 


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