Project leaves trailer park residents in the lurch 

Twenty-seven families about to lose their homes to the Fountain Creek Drainage Project -- an $11 million flood-control project approved by city voters last spring -- say the city has placed their lives in limbo.

Though it's been five months since the city told the families they'd have to move, residents say they still don't know when they'll have to leave, what kind of reimbursement they can expect or where they'll be living six months from now.

Confusion over the ultimate price tag of the relocation portion of the project further muddied the water, creating uncertainty over how to fund the move.

The people facing eviction live alongside Fountain Creek in A1 Mobile Village, an affordable housing haven a half mile west of 8th Street. The city told them in December that they'll have to move because the portion of creek they live by will be widened 150 to 200 feet as a flood control measure.

City officials insist they've kept the residents informed, but residents say they've had to rely on rumor, news from neighbors, sporadic newspaper articles and fliers distributed by unidentified sources.

"I don't know what to expect," complained 62-year-old Carol Duncan, an A1 resident since 1988. "All I know is what I've heard from the neighbors, and none of them know much, either."

Park resident and Westside activist Tom Gallagher agreed.

"There's no way they'd string out people in the Broadmoor area like this," said Gallagher, an A1 resident of seven years and president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors. "We don't know any more than we did back in December. We may be working class, but we have lives to plan like everyone else."

The $11.5 million flood control project is one of 29 capital improvement projects approved by voters last April as part of the Springs Community Improvements Program (SCIP).

Part of the problem, said SCIP real estate specialist Brad Larson, is that the city learned after the bond was passed that it will cost up to $4.5 million -- a little more than half the amount left in the project budget -- to acquire the A1 property and reimburse and move the displaced residents.

That might not leave enough to do all the planned stream improvements, Larson said.

The city, accordingly, is pursuing a partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) that could leverage the project's $11.5 million into $33 million.

In consequence, A1 residents were told as late as April 17 that they might not have to move, after all. On April 18, however, the city asked the SCIP Drainage Oversight Committee for permission to put the project on hold for up to seven months while the ACE partnership is negotiated.

The Oversight Committee nixed the delay, however, saying it would be unconscionable "to keep stringing out A1 residents like this."

Larson recently told the Independent that the city plans to reimburse each family with a trailer that meets the standards set by other parks and that is compatible in size with their former home. Residents, however, said as late as last week that they'd heard nothing to that effect from the city.

No vacancy

Relocation, meanwhile, may prove more complicated than the city bargained for.

Twelve of the 18 mobile home parks contacted by the Independent last week had no vacancies. Some have waiting lists of up to two years. Most have significant restrictions on trailer size, style and year. Two of the six that had a vacancy accept tenants only 55 and older, and several don't allow children or pets.

"The city is clueless," said Gallagher. "Unless they're planning to build a trailer court to put us in, the closest place to move is east of Yoder, and who wants to live there?"

Asked about the dearth of vacancies, Larson replied: "That's all just part of the process. We're keeping an eye on things."

The residents, meanwhile, say they're still in limbo.

"We don't know whether to pack, enroll our kid in another school for next fall, look for a new place, or what," complained 32-year-old Albert Aldaz, an A1 resident of 10 years. "I'm going to have to start all over from square one, and no one's telling me what's what."

Raygan Rivera, a pregnant 23-year-old mother of two, said a relocation specialist visited the A1 site in February to "look around," but she's had no other contact from the city. "It would sure help if we knew what to expect," she said.

But the city's Larson said that communication is a two-way street. "They all have my telephone number," Larson countered. "They're free to call me any time."

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