City won't delay water shutoff

Sandusky city commissioners, staff blame property owner
Register
Jun 25, 2013

By TOM JACKSON and ANDY OURIEL   
news@sanduskyregister.com

Sandusky city commissioners and other public officials are weighing in on the crisis at Hoppers mobile home park, where nearly a dozen residents are just weeks away from possible homelessness.   

While some commissioners continue to struggle for answers, others have placed themselves smack in the middle of the fray, fighting to help the park's residents as the city marches toward an Aug. 1 deadline to shut off the park's water service.

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The property owner, Joe Yost, is tens of thousands of dollars behind on payments for water service at the mobile home park. The residents have said they paid Yost for water service, but city officials said Yost never paid the water bill.   

Last week, the Register asked all seven city commissioners to respond to this question: "Do you believe the city should attempt to do something to help the residents, either by delaying the deadline for them to move, or by helping them with financial assistance so that they can successfully relocate? Or is the city willing to supply them with individual water meters, or individual billing accounts, so that residents who pay their monthly water bill can continue to receive service?"

Commissioners Diedre Cole, Jeff Smith and Julie Farrar responded to the Register before Monday's commission meeting, either by email or phone.  

Commissioner Wes Poole sent an email Saturday that said he was having email problems. At Monday's meeting, he had little to say. 

Commissioners John Hamilton, Pervis Brown and Keith Grohe did not reply, although they offered a few quick opinions on the matter at Monday's meeting.   

Smith, Cole and Farrar said they do not favor extending the deadline for the planned shutoff of water service at the mobile home park, even as some residents continue struggling to find a new place to live. 

•Said Cole: "No one can accuse the city of acting hastily in this situation and Mr. Yost was provided every opportunity to rectify this problem well before now. I also don't support extending the deadline; that's what got us to this point, we simply need to fix the problem."

•Said Smith: "It is the city of Sandusky's responsibility to provide water to all residents in Sandusky, it is the responsibility of the property owner to pay that bill, he has not."

•Said Farrar: "Mr. Yost was put on notice in March the water was going to be shut off. We are at a point where Mr. Yost has to pay his bills."

Others at the meeting who addressed the issue: 

•Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci: "The city of Sandusky cannot go into a mobile home community and enforce the code ... No one in our city should ever have to live like this. How do we prevent this from happening again? I'll tell you how: I'm going to park myself on (city law director Don) Icsman's doorstep to strengthen our code ... so we can mitigate trash, tires, grass weeds, unsafe and unhealthy conditions." 

•Sandusky finance director Hank Solowiej: "We had people living there unknowingly paying rent to a landlord who is not paying us. That brought up a more collaborative effort of talking to the police chief, fire chief, public safety concerns going on out there, discussions with the Erie County Board of Health about the public health issues out there. And I think we all became aware that, with the water issue aside, there were many issues going on out there that concerns a lot of agencies. ... The city wasn't being the bad guy, it was all of us trying to work together to get the people somewhere else. It's not their fault we are in this situation — the property owner is responsible for this. That is where the blame needs to be." 

•Erie County environmental health director Bob England: "The city of Sandusky brought this to our attention, taxes that weren't paid and utilities that weren't paid for quite some time. And their only recourse is to shut off the water. The determination is when, how and why do they do that? When you shut off water to a community like this, the water is the lifeblood of the community. ... If the water is shut off, there are all sorts of health consequences. .... In discussing that with the city, the city manager's office and also the fire department, we all agreed to meet with the community and make them aware of the resources that are out there." 

Ricci, England and city officials organized a meeting earlier this month near Hoppers mobile home park, where they met with residents in hopes of pointing them to social services and other public assistance available. 

This past week, some of the residents said they're still struggling to find a new home or cobble together resources to secure a new place.   

England said that of the 30 homes at the mobile home park, "five or six are in limbo and, of those five or six, two or three have an option (for) a waiting list." 

Cole, however, spent much of last week out at the park, helping residences clean the place and learning more about each person's individual needs. She said there are at least 10 families or individuals still in need of assistance. 

"In the old days, when neighbors faced hardships, everyone pitched in and helped," Cole said. "Government was a last resort, not a first. Whatever happened to that? Maybe the Register could start a fund at a local bank to which I will gladly contribute what I can."

Ricci said the community event he helped organized for the park's residents was intended to lead them to viable solutions. 

"Only time will tell if we were successful or not," Ricci said at Monday's commissions meeting, his voice emotional. "I find it incredibly inexcusable for anyone, anywhere to interpret our efforts to be meaningless or ineffective. We care about our city — we want what's best for our citizens and we will get it done." 

Farrar said city officials may be willing to help the residents on a case-by-case basis until everyone has been housed.

Smith, also a landlord, said he will try to help anyone who calls him.

 

Comments

margaritaville88

DARWIN: Agreed! I am beginning to wonder if someone on the current or previous commission is "buddies" with Yost and/or one of his 'associates' ? ?
I smell something in the wood pile people, and it's not roses !!!

pptrsha

I got a tenants water bill. it was over 1000.00 the city came out determined that the water was turned on in the house and left on. I begged the water dept to shut it off...they wouldn't because there were people living in it. I would not pay it so they would shut it off. they didn't. it went on for three months it took me to go through eviction court. I still had to pay it in the end. yes, the city has an agenda, I also think they make the rules as they go along.

OSUBuckeye59

All of the details about failings from both Mr. Yost and the City are truly hard to believe. As others have already noted, why didn't the City threaten Yost's LLC with water shut-off 4+ years ago? Why has the City allowed property taxes owed to accumulate up to almost $300,000? And isn't it all so nice for Mr. Yost how he's been pocketing the checks of his trailer-park tenants without paying any of his city obligations?

So what to do about all this?

One thing I haven't yet read is if the IRS has been alerted to potentially look into potential tax return shenanigans by Yost on behalf of his LLC. I'd be interested to know if Yost's claiming any/some/all of the trailer-park rental income, and if he's also listing utility & tax payments, not to mention if he's declaring any maintenance and improvement costs. Perhaps an IRS audit of Yost's tax returns for at least the last 5 years would be one avenue to explore.

Someone in the City's water utility department needs to be held accountable and answer for why Yost was allowed almost 5 years of water payment delinquency. A 3 month delinquency before threatening shut-off would seem justifiable, but 5 years? Likewise, someone in the City's Property Tax office needs to be held accountable and answer for why Yost was allowed to be arrears close to $300k.

Having the Hoppers mobile home park property owned by Yost's LLC pretty much guarantees Yost's personal finances can't be touched should any of the trailer park renters somehow get legal aid and sue Yost. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if the next story line on all this is that Yost sold the property, and whatever was leftover after Yost pays his loan in full will satisfy some/all of his water and property tax bills.

LadyC

Unfortunately you're right on the money. Yost operated the park under a limited liability corporation, and so they can't go after his personal finances to secure the debts. But I have to wonder, too, about those tax returns. The city charges taxes on rental income as well, I wonder if those were paid. The county property taxes weren't, the water wasn't, so I assume the city tax hasn't been paid either. I googled Yost and he was also a "managing member" of the Hayes Avenue Development Co., address listed 1700 hayes Ave. The only things in the 1700 block of Hayes Ave. are the underpass or American Crayon.

pavedparadise

This shyster has his hands in several City projects and laughed all the way to the bank in each. Sandusky is easy pickings.

EZOB

Okay, I'll go ahead and say what everyone is thinking. We all know that when a utility bill is 2 or 3 months late' it's usually shut-off time. I'll accuse somebody at the city level of getting a kick-back. There isn't another reason this was continued for 5 years. Yost should be charged with embezelling the peoples money and someone at the city level should be fired and charged. ANOTHER LAWSUIT: They'll be fired and sue the city to get their job back and the taxpayers pay again.

Darwin's choice

Has yost been reported in here? Or are you saying he should be?

kris63063

Who in their right mind would want to buy the trailor park? That park is a disaster and totally run down and an eye sore. Once the owners start tearing into the outside of the trailors and selling the scrap, who is going to pay for the removal of the hulks that are left behind? Who is going to foot that bill? Let me guess, the taxpayers! The city handled the outstanding water bill by applying it to his property taxes but he wasn't paying those either. A lot of good that did! Why did it take 5 years for someone to notice there was a problem with this property owner?

dorothy gale

The city doesn't care about the residents. I think they've had plans for that corner for a long time.

Restless1

Can the renters stop paying rent and put the money in a fund to pay the city back for the water? Where are the creative thinkers?

pavedparadise

There has been talk on this article regarding the City Land Bank Program.

Here is some info thanks to the City web-page and County Auditor.

910 Central Ave--Sold in 2000 to private owner for $68,900. City acquired property in 2012 for Land Bank and sold for $850 (not a typo)(appraised $127,000)

14 Anderson Street Extension. City acquired property--sold in 2012 for $1,475 (appraised $5800)--new owner resold two months later at a $600 profit.

Two to name many such properties.

gramafun

this has been a five alarm screw up since it began. Someone should have put a stop to this overdue bill long ago, but its a little late now. Truth be known, its the RESIDENTS of the park who are suffering, not the city commissioner (Cole included) or the city of Sandusky. I feel badly for them and yet not ONE bit of help came to them to save their homes.

Whoever has the "agenda" should be really proud of themselves. I won't be surprised by who it is, nor will I be surprised when it comes out that the CITY OF SANDUSKY makes out on this one. Corruption abounds around here. Why is anyone surprised by anything anymore?

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