After recently receiving letters saying they could be homeless come September, residents of North Bay Mobile Home Park are fearful for their futures.
On April 20, a letter was distributed to roughly 200 residents from their landlord James Wankel saying owners may have to vacate their properties come September 30 as the park has lost its permit to operate sewage works at the nearby lagoon.
“I just feel like crying,” resident Marie Ratte said upon receiving the letter. Ratte who is raising her nine grandchildren at her home in the park.
Calling North Bay home since July, Ratte said she has invested a great deal of her life savings — roughly $60,000 — into purchasing and fixing up the home, hindering her ability to relocate or move from the park. This is a similar story for many in the park.
“I am lost, totally lost,” she said. “[I have] no place to bring the kids that safe again. I keep them away from all the streets. I was safe. Now, it is all gone.”
Resident Jim Mazurkiwish, similarly saddled with unknowns, was stumped as to where all the residents and units would go if required to move.
“What do you do with 55 or 65 trailers that can’t really go anywhere,” he said. “My mind is on just [the] cost…it is just not only mine, there is everybody's cost in here.”
This sentiment was echoed by resident Carol Morin who, if required to flip the bill to move the trailer, questioned who would be compensating the move.
"Where is this money going to come from? Where are we going to move them and who is going to compensate us…nobody,” she said.
The lagoon, which was built in 1969, is not operating within standards laid out by the Ministry of Environment. The ministry has been in regular contact with the previous and current owner for some years in an attempt to find a solution.
Patrick Boyle with the Water Security Agency said the waste poses a potential risk to the aquifer underneath the sewage lagoon and leaks could contaminate neighbouring private wells.
“It is forcing action on the part of owners of the trailer court to alter the situation,” Boyle said, noting there were three options available to alleviate the situation: build a new lagoon, create an agreement with the City of Prince Albert to tie into their wastewater treatment system, or decommission the park.
“At the end of the day, our interest provincially would be to have a collaborative solution with all parties involved…hopefully that can happen in the future here,” he added.
In the letter sent from landlord Wankel was an explanation how over the past five months, he has been lobbying city council to run a sewer line from North Bay to the lift station located at the old Coca Cola plant, however, to no avail.
“Unfortunately, your home means nothing to the R.M. of Buckland or the City of Prince Albert,” Wankel’s letter further read.
The landlord said the city has the capacity to accomodate residents citing email evidence.
“They have run a substation up to the area to service it. They have done this before and we are willing to pay the city of P.A. to take the septic from these people. It is irresponsible of the mayor to just deflect….He has an obligation to service his community,” Wankel said. “The only reason why they are saying no that I can think of is because they don’t want any responsibility for the residents.”
Park Manager Kathy Brandoline didn't mince words, saying, "we were doomed."
Wankel, she said, bought the park with the best of intentions in mind and directed partial blame for the current situation on the back of the previous owners.
Addressing this and refuting some claims from Wankel's initial letter, was a notice distributed to residents on April 26 written by Mayor Greg Dionne.
It stated how despite a presentation made by Wankel in requesting the necessary infrastructure to connect the park to the city’s system, the city says it does not have reserved capacity in the existing system for outside developments, and thus not considering any new applications outside of city limits.
“We can’t take outside sources like that, in that volume, and not recover our costs. People say 'well Greg they are willing to pay for the treatment and facility,' but there is more to it," Dionne said, citing the risk for sewage backups and added pressure on an ageing treatment facility.
Though reiterating his compassion for the residents, Dionne said the onus of the situation fell on the backs of the owner and was frustrated with Wankel attempting to pass his problems off.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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