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Bankruptcy to force out 28 families

Tom Jackson • Jun 19, 2013 at 6:26 AM

Residents of Hoppers mobile home park on Venice Road may soon be searching for a new place to live.

Fed-up Sandusky officials said they haven’t received a water and sewer bill payment from mobile home park owner Joseph Yost in about five years, and they simply won’t tolerate it any longer. They are now threatening to cut off water to the mobile home park, at 2513 Venice Road, a move that would force tenants to move.

“It’s likely the water is going to get turned off,” said Hank Solowiej, the city’s finance director. “The sad part is a lot of the tenants, I don’t think, have a clue about what’s going on.”

Alice Seevers, 50, who lives at the mobile home park with her family, said she’s been told everyone must be gone by Aug. 8. She said she’s looking for another home.

“We’re hearing from the health department, the water department, but we’re not hearing from the landlord himself,” she said.

Hoppers has 36 lots, eight of which are vacant. That means 28 individuals or families would be forced to move.

The Erie County Health Department has been holding a series of meetings with Erie County Job and Family Services, city officials and others to discuss how to help tenants who are caught in the middle, Erie County environmental health director Bob England said. 

Another such meeting is set for Friday at the health department.

“Our main concern is that when they shut off the water, we’re going to have people occupying the structures within the park without potable water,” he said. 

If people can’t wash their hands, use their toilets or take a shower, it creates immediate public health problems, he said.

“We want to get ahead of this situation and make sure that these issues don’t crop up,” England said.

The city sent a final shutoff notice to Westgate Development Co., 1651 Tiffin Ave., on March 25, demanding payment of about $47,130 by April 8. The notice said if payment isn’t received, water to the mobile home park would be cut off.

That deadline wasn’t enforced, but the city wanted to make it clear it is serious, Solowiej said.

In the meantime, the amount that’s owed has surpassed $50,000, he said.

This isn’t the only money Yost owes the government. He owns Westwood Management Co. LLC. The Erie County auditor’s website shows Westgate Development LLC, listed at the Venice Road address, owes the county about $293,500 in property taxes.

Solowiej said the last time Yost made a normal water and sewer payment was back in 2008. Solowiej took over the finance director’s post in 2010. When Solowiej’s predecessor, Ed Widman, could not collect on the water bill, the debt was assessed to property taxes.

“That was something I really wasn’t comfortable in doing,” Solowiej said. “We came to the determination that this needed to stop.”

Sandusky’s patience won’t last forever, Solowiej said. 

“It’s possible we are going to shut the water off,” he said.

The property has a single water meter for everyone, so individual customers cannot pay their own water bills to keep the water flowing.

“Our arrangement is with the property owner,” Solowiej said.

Sandusky city manager Nicole Ard said the city has been working with other agencies, such as the Erie County Health Department and Erie County Job and Family Services, because it wants to minimize any impact from a water shutoff.

“We don’t want people out of their homes or out of water, but something has to be done,” Ard said.

The Register contacted Yost for comment, but he declined because he didn’t have the relevant documents handy. 

“I’ll get back to you,” he said, but he never did. 

Jo Dee Fantozz, Erie County’s treasurer, said she can’t go after Yost for failure to pay property taxes because Yost has filed for bankruptcy, an action that ties her hands.

Court records for the Northern District of Ohio’s bankruptcy court show Westgate Development filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and obtained a final decree in 2011.


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