Eviction challenge expected in Aleutian Village
City and tenants say they will fight to keep the trailer park open
Valdez Star photo
Aleutian Village residents are a diverse community of people with homes as individual as the occupants.
Residents of Aleutian Village Trailer Park told city officials last week that they want to fight the eviction - and are looking for city muscle to back them up.
Interim city manager Robert Jean held an open house with residents and owners last Wednesday and a work session with city council Monday night to address the issue, which threatens to displace approximately 68 mobile homes and several hundred residents.
Stakeholders were scrambling for information last week when the managers of the trailer park, Aleut Real Estate LLC, sent certified eviction notices to park owners and residents last week.
"Aleut Real Estate, LLC intends to cease its operation of the Aleutian Village Trailer Park," the notice said, and stated that all mobile homes must be removed from the park by midnight, August 31, 2016.
Not so fast say city officials, who sprang into action to explore options with the managing company, which is a subsidiary of the Aleut Corp.
"We don't was people forced out," Jean said Monday night during the work session with the council.
It is still unclear how that will happen, what entity would manage the park if the fight to stop the evictions is successful.
Jean's hoped for outcomes are spelled out in a guest editorial published on page 4 of this edition of the Valdez Star.
Jean, who said he met with Rep. Jim Colver to help mediate a deal with the owners, had the city's attorneys reviewing the lease held by the Aleut Corp. with DOT, the actual owners of the land the park sits on.
Sorting out the legalities and technicalities of the lease will be time consuming.
The land the park sits on was originally leased from DOT by the City of Valdez, which had sublet the land to the Aleut Corp. The Aleut Corp. then leased lots to trailer owners or tenants leasing trailers.
When the city turned over the DOT lease directly to the Aleut Corp around ten years ago, the lease contained stipulations that the corporation hook up the park to city water and that the electric system in the park be brought up to code.
Water lines were put in, and electrical upgrades installed, but the two systems were never brought online for residents.
The condition of the unused upgrades is unknown, the city said.
City attorney Tony Guerriero was on hand at the council work session Monday.
"It's a long term lease," he told council, "They can't just go to the state and tell them they're leaving."
He said his office is still reviewing the city's legal options regarding the enforcement of the improvements in the lease contract that were not completed.
Jean said he is to begin the process of creating a Housing Authority within the city to aid the city and residents in the process of moving forward.
Doug Desorci, who represents Colver in Valdez at the Legislative Information Office, said the representative's office is working to facilitate a meeting between the Aleut Corp. and city officials sooner rather than later.
Last week, Jean reported that the corporation said it could not meet with the city until the week of October 20. Officials are hoping that meeting will now take place the first week of October.
"I want to get this thing moving," Jean said Monday.
The city has also amended its contract with Sheinberg Associates, the firm hired to facilitate the city's economic diversification, to complete a survey with residents of Aleutian Village to gather data from residents that the city will use in its efforts to secure funding for the proposed housing authority.
Barb Sheinberg, who runs the firm, vowed that identifying data from the survey, which is still in the planning stages, will be kept confidential and not be shared with the city.
"We're not going to give the survey to the city," she said, noting her professional reputation would suffer if she did.
Meanwhile, a number of residents have been left wondering if planned improvements to their homes should be put on hold.
One resident told council he had a pile of lumber outside his home he had planned to use to redo his skirting and is now wondering if it makes economic sense to finish the project.
A number of trailers in the park - it is unknown how many - are presumed to be unmovable due to aging issues or lack of integrity. And then there are the wannigans - the structures built onto trailers.
Steve Czech said his recent experience with the owner company sheds a particular light on the character of the company.
Valdez Star photo
It was standing room only Wednesday night at the open house the interim city manager hosted to begin a conversation with those affected by eviction notices sent to residents of Aleutian Trailer Park.
He paid cash to buy a trailer located in Aleutian Village on Aug. 25. After providing the corporation voluminous amounts of financial documentation to prove he could pay the space rent, he signed a lease for the space Aug. 31. He got his eviction notice last week with everyone else.
As for legal strategy, the city is still exploring the options and gathering information.
Some residents expressed frustration at the process, saying they had asked the city to enforce the code improvements with the Aleut Corp. for several years and that no firm action had been taken.
Jean says there is a new sheriff in town and asked the residents to trust him.
"We're going to play poker with them a little bit," Jean said. "If you want me to be really effective, you need to let me do my job."