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Homeowners get the boot

Shawn Foucher • Jun 19, 2013 at 7:35 AM

"Fine with me." 

So said Joe Yost, when asked Tuesday how he feels about the city gearing up to toss a dozen or more Sandusky families out on the street within the next month or so. 

Yost, owner of Hoppers mobile home park on Venice Road, hasn't paid the property's water bill in about five years, according to city officials, and he's about $50,000 in arrears. 

So the city's leaders came up with a grand solution: Shut off the water Aug.1 and evict the residents. The health department would deem a health hazard to live there without water service.   

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Yost had little else to say about the situation when reached by phone, other than accusing the residents of failing to pay him for their water service. He said he and city officials are working out some details, but he declined to discuss the matter further before hanging up the phone. 

Tuesday afternoon, three residents at the park showed a reporter copies of receipts for recent water bills.   

"It's not my fault the (expletive) screwed me out of this and didn't pay the water bill," said Lawrence Allen Jr., 46, who has owned the same trailer at Hoppers for the past 20 years. "I have nowhere to go. If they shut my water off, I'll still be here. I'll go buy a Porta Potty and put one right in my (expletive) front yard. I'll haul water in." 

For now, the water is still running. 

Even so, the folks in this ill-fated park along Venice Road know greater troubles are just around the corner. Some are hoping for the best, others are carrying on as if the worst is inevitable. 

As Allen talked about digging in his heels and fighting to the bitter end, another resident, Bill Mullins, quietly pried away at the metal skin off his trailer. By early afternoon he had removed most of the metal shell, which he'll sell for scrap. 

Half a dozen or more of the mobile homes have already met similar fates, skeleton frame left in their places.    

Like Allen, Harry Litteral, 49, doesn't plan to leave quietly or easily. He watched as Mullins peeled the trailer like an orange.  

"We ain't touching our houses," Litteral said. "That's crazy."  

"I have almost $18,000 tied up in my trailer," Allen said. "And they're just going to throw us out in the street without any compensation?"  

Both men are on disability. Allen said he was injured years ago. Litteral said he still suffers from a long-ago attack, when he was shot four times in the back by his half-brother. 

More than two weeks ago, a handful of public agencies hosted an information session in the parking lot of Westgate Center, a property Yost also owned until a bank grabbed hold of it a few years ago. Hoppers residents were invited to the session, where agencies passed out brochures and packets about services offered.

There are 36 lots at Hoppers, at least eight of them vacant. Other trailers appear empty or disassembled, although in some cases people are still living inside. At this point it's unclear how many people still live at the mobile home park.   

City officials said they're working with the residents to help them relocate. 

Head out to Hoppers this week, you'd get a different story. 

"They haven't done (expletive) for nobody," Allen said. "Every time you go talk to one of them, it's, 'Go see this person, go see that person, go see this person.' But after you go through a whole train of people, you get the person at the end who says, 'Well, what do you want us to do for you? What are we supposed to do?' 

"What are you supposed to do? You're supposed to do something," Allen said. "You're throwing us out in the (expletive) street."

It's unclear how Yost could have gotten so far in arrears on the water bill, or why the city is pushing the residents out without offering other potential options. It's also not clear who made the decision to evict the residents and how the city arrived at that decision.  

The Register has asked all seven city commissioners for their view, if only to determine if the city will delay its timetable for shutting off the water, or provide more individual help to some of the park's residents. 

The Register asked commissioners to reply by Friday.

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