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Monday, August 11th, 2014

Mercelina residents who sought aid received help, official says

By Kathy Thompson

The inside of an empty mobile home trailer is shown in this photo taken recently. . .

CELINA - Area agencies and community members have helped ease the transition for residents forced to vacate Mercelina Mobile Home Court by the end of the year.
Every resident seeking financial assistance from the Mercer County Council on Aging, Sources Community Network Services, OUR Home Family Resources and private donations was helped, according to Karen Howick, director of the council on aging.
"We were able to assist everyone who applied," she said. "All the funds collected have been committed even though it's not all been disbursed yet. We're still in the process of doing that. Some churches and groups around the community also helped with packing and moving some of the residents. It's been a real community effort."
The tenants last year were told to leave the mobile home park by the end of 2014 after the city purchased the lakeside land and the adjacent former Versa Pak property for $2.94 million to expand its parks.     Howick said the local resource agencies have disbursed slightly more than $7,000 to 12 households. The money was used for relocation needs such as a first month's deposit, utility deposits or rent for those deemed eligible, she said.
Howick said one family received funds to move their mobile home to another area. The families being assisted are making the transition as well as can be expected, she said.
"They've been doing what needs to be done and moving on to a new chapter in their lives," Howick said. "In the long term, it will be a nice park. Five years from now, hopefully, they'll all be down there enjoying the area."
One year ago, more than 50 full-time residents lived at the mobile home court along Grand Lake. Today, 18 homes remain and most are vacant. Shades are pulled, windows are boarded up and stairways are falling apart on some of the properties.
Taz and Bobbie Jo Wright lived in the park the past six years. On Thursday, they cleaned up the bare lot after their mobile home was moved to another park earlier in the week.
The couple became emotional as they looked around at a few remaining items such as the slide their 6-year-old daughter, Payton, played on. The Wrights said they've felt anger, frustration and depression since finding out they had to leave.
"But we've been helped a lot by a lot of volunteers and the council on aging," said Taz Wright, as he moved skirting and plastic. "They've put us up in a motel and paid the deposit for electric at the new place. They're supposed to help us with the finances for the move itself, but we're not sure how much that's going to be yet."
The family said they would miss the mobile home park but don't plan on coming back.
Most of the property along Lake Shore Drive likely will become a venue for city events after the mobile homes are removed and the former Versa Pak building is razed, city officials have said.
Louis Schiavone, the attorney representing the Mercelina Mobile Court Company and two of its stockholders, said he understands the move has been a "sacrifice and inconvenience" for the residents, but it's going "as smoothly as can be expected."
The company tried to give the residents sufficient time and consideration, Schiavone said.
"I believe we will get through this as a community and once the park is expanded it will be an asset and betterment for the entire community and its future," he said.
Schiavone said most of the residents are gone.
"We are in the process of evicting one owner," he said. "That owner is not a full-time tenant and lives out of state. I think by the end of the year, everyone will be gone and we'll be moving forward.
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