Residents of Garfield Estates voice concerns
Huey Freeman – H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR While residents of a mobilehome park are upset because they have been ordered to move out, an executive of the company that owns the property said he will do everything he can to help them make the transition, as long as they move to the company’s other mobile home parks. A group of 15 residents of Garfield Estates met with state Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, on Saturday at the Elks Club to voice their concerns.
Garfield Estates is on the city’s east side, just north of Faries Parkway, bordered on three sides by Archer Daniels Midland Co. property.
Residents said that after being informed in January that they must leave the park by July, some have been offered money to help move, but only if they move to other parks owned by the same company, Michigan-based Choice Properties.
But several residents said they cannot move their mobile homes, because the structures are too old and settled to withstand relocation.
Debbie Lenders, a contract employee at nearby Caterpillar Inc., said she purchased her 1968 double-wide home six years ago for $7,000. In 2008, she shelled out another $5,500 for a new bathroom with a whirlpool and a new shed.
I was living in an apartment, Lenders said. I thought this would be a good place to live. I wouldn’t have to move.
Lenders said she does not know where she will live and is concerned that she might be laid off in April.
Most residents own their homes and pay rent for the use of the lot. Some residents pay rent for the homes and the lots.
Georgia Ashe, 58, who has lived in the park with her husband, Rex, 68, for 19 years, said they do not know where they will go.
Our trailer can’t be moved, Georgia Ashe said./p>
If you don’t move to one of their trailer parks you don’t get help,Rex Ashe said. The only help we’ll get is to their benefit.
The residents expressed anxiety about their future. Several residents said they have been told various stories about the amount of possible assistance, yet could not obtain those promises in writing from the company.
Residents say they were pressured to sign agreements to accept payment to move to the company’s other parks. They originally were given seven days to sign, in order to receive financial assistance to move. That deadline was later extended about two more weeks, to Feb. 10, after a Herald & Review article addressed the issue.
I’m not moving to their trailer park, Georgia Ashe said. For what? So they can kick me out again?
Choice Properties had been invited to the Saturday meeting. The company was represented by a maintenance man, who declined to comment on the record.
Flider said he will invite Choice Properties to send someone authorized to put the company’s commitments into writing to meet with him and the residents.
Everyone needs to be treated fairly and equitably and their issues need to be resolved, Flider said. We’d like every one of these folks with an outstanding issue to reach closure. We want someone from the corporate office to sit down with the individuals. We want them to live up to some of the commitments that they said.
Reached by telephone, John Rogosich, senior regional manager of Choice Properties, said he is willing to meet with Flider and the residents.
Rogosich said although his company is in business to make money, he is concerned about taking care of the residents.
From these 100 homes, 70 of the families have agreed to move in my communities, Rogosich said.
Homeowners who cannot move their homes will be given different homesand titles in the other parks, Park Place and Hyde Park, he said.
We are giving them better everything, better community, better homes, he said, adding that there is no question that he is trying to make all the tenants happy.
Terry Nelson, president of Mobile Home Owners Association of Illinois, an advocacy group for residents, told the residents that even if the landowner is not legally responsible to help them, it is morally responsible.
This is really a mass eviction, Nelson said.
Rogosich, a managing partner of Choice Properties, said the land has not been sold.
We didn’t sell anything yet, he said. The real reason is our operational efficiency and the situation in the economy. It could be sold later to someone.
He said that Garfield Estates has been operating far below capacity, with just one-third of the 300 available sites occupied.