Trailer park closes

Published 11:25 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tom Forguson spray-painted “free” on his trailer to find someone who would take it away from Southside Trailer Park, where the residents have been told to be out by the end of the year.

Tom Forguson watched as his neighbors’ trailers were hauled away from Southside Trailer Park on Tuesday. The ongoing process of the closing of the trailer park continued.

Dozens of residents at the trailer park south of downtown have been left scrambling for a new place to live after they were informed at the end of August that it would be closing.

The trailer park, located at 1073 Carolina Road, notified its residents by a letter dated Aug. 31 that they would have to move by the end of the year. The park has been in existence for more than 50 years, and many residents have been there more than two decades.

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Many of the residents say they were not informed in time to move. Some have defaulted on their loans or gone into debt to get the money to move.

“There wasn’t enough time,” said Lisa Jones, who moved her trailer to Corapeake two weeks ago. “We scrambled to find somewhere to live. Unfortunately, in Suffolk, there’s not many places you can put a trailer park, and some of the other parks are not very desirable.”

The residents say giving them only four months, when Christmas is around the corner and personal property taxes are due Dec. 5, was unfair. Many are on fixed incomes.

“If he would have given us about a year, even six months, we wouldn’t have been as upset as we were,” Jones said. “Even if he waited until tax time, that’s a little less strain than right before Christmas. My 10-year-old said, ‘Santa doesn’t have to come see me this year, because y’all are broke.’”

Grier Ferguson, attorney for S.L. Hines, who owns the trailer park, said his client reluctantly came to the decision to close the park, because the septic fields were failing and the only long-term solution would be to hook onto city sewage. To do that would not be economically feasible, Ferguson said.

“It’s sad to everybody,” Ferguson said. “There’s no winners here.”

Hines is 83 years old, Ferguson added, and has no family to take control of the park.

“He’s just doing what he’s got to do,” Ferguson said. “Mr. Hines wants to be as fair as he can. Obviously, some of the tenants feel that’s not adequate under the circumstances.”

Tom Forguson spray-painted “FREE” on the side of his trailer. A local company will tow it away for scrap, he said. He’ll be moving to a house his parents own in Sleepy Hole.

“Luckily, my mom and dad have got this house for me to live in,” said Forguson, who has lived at the park for 16 years. “Everybody’s being rushed.”

Many lots at the park are already empty, marked by nothing but dirt rectangles and, in some places, added-on porches that now lead to nothing. Two trailers were towed away to North Carolina on Tuesday as Forguson watched from his yard.

Eddie Uzzell says he’s upset that the residents were given only four months’ notice. He hopes to get some support from the city, perhaps in the form of an extension on personal property taxes, but said he hasn’t heard back from people he’s tried to contact there.

“A lot of them have had to walk out of their trailers and leave it,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to have some money put back to move my trailer, but I know several of them that’s had to go to the bank for a loan to move their trailer.”

Besides the time and financial constraints, closing the trailer park is breaking up family ties, residents said, among actual family members who were able to live close to one another and among neighbors who had grown to be like family over the years.

“We had great neighbors,” said Jones, who said her 10-year-old son was the only child who lived in the park. “Sometimes my son’s bus came early, and if I wasn’t home, my neighbors would take my son. Everybody looked out for our child.”

Ferguson said he’s aware that many of the residents feel they were not given enough time to move.

“I guess we’ll be talking to the residents about it,” he said. “We obviously want to try to help these people.”