AUGUSTA — Residents of a Riverside Drive mobile home park say the park’s roads are so rough and full of potholes that their cars have been damaged and the owner of the park has not made good on promises to fix the roads, or other problems in the park.
The owner of the park said some of the Riverside Drive Village mobile home park’s roads were partially torn up last year to fix water line problems, and he intended to have them repaved last summer, but he couldn’t find any paving firms to do the work. He said the roads will be fixed this year, as soon as the frost leaves the ground, and residents just need to be patient.
The patience of Phil Marson, a seven-year resident of the approximately 160-unit park, appears to have run out. He said when he’s complained to park management about the road they said they’d fix it, but then didn’t do anything.
“I told them about it last year, they said they’d take care of it, then didn’t do anything,” Marson said. “They don’t care about us. I’m tired of wrecking my vehicles on this road.”
Linda Traxler, who has lived in the park for some 30 years, said she realizes this time of year in Maine roads can be bad. But she said the park’s roads are so bad vehicles have to slow to a crawl.
“It slows emergency medical responses down, they have to slow down because the road is so bad, and every minute counts,” she said. “We’ve complained and complained, and nothing gets done. I realize there are potholes around. But this is worse than any other roads in the city.”
Traxler’s husband, Charlie York, said signs in the park say the speed limit is 15 mph, but “if you go that fast, you’re going to be replacing front end parts.”
He said he had nearly $800 of work done on the front suspension of his Ford Ranger pickup, most of which, he said, was because of traveling in and out of Sparrow Drive, the main road into the park.
In one especially bad section of the road, drivers face a pothole on one side and a bumpy, crater-like section on the other. Motorists passing through have only one real choice — which rough spot to hit.
During about an hour spent in the park on a recent day, the undersides of multiple cars scraped on the pavement as they went through that section.
Residents said former park owner Schiavi Properties kept the park in much better condition and listened to the concerns of its residents. But that was nine years ago.
“Schiavi kept this place right up to snuff,” York said. “Paved every year, even did driveways. Now, they don’t. They just want the money, and then they’re running.”
Park owner Mike Crocker is a Maine native who now lives in California. He owns multiple mobile home parks, including four in Augusta, and said money has already been allocated and the road will be repaired as soon as it is warm enough to dig into the ground and pave.
Crocker said other, much more heavily traveled public roads, including Riverside Drive, are in worse condition than the park’s roads.
He said the park’s roads had to be dug up last year because of a water leak. And when they went to have it repaved, they couldn’t find any paving companies with the time to do the job, because so many paving crews in the area were busy working on Summit Natural Gas of Maine and Maine Natural Gas projects, paving over newly installed underground gas pipelines.
“Every paving company was working on the gas lines, so we had to go through the winter before we can pave it,” Crocker said Friday. “They had to live with it through the winter. We told residents, as soon as the ground thaws, we’ll pave it. We’re happy to pave the roads as soon as the water clears out of the ground. Until then, it’s a condition one has to live with.”
Park residents are skeptical the work will actually take place, because when they’ve voiced complaints before, they said they were told they’d be addressed, but weren’t.
“I stopped complaining, because they don’t do nothing,” said Joe Parlin, who moved his then-new mobile home onto a leased lot in the park in 2002. “Most of the people here are like me, disabled and retired. A lot of them don’t want to speak up about it, because they’re afraid (of retribution by the park owner). I don’t care anymore.”
Other residents of the park said they are concerned about the road, but said they did not want to speak on the record for fear of retribution.
Parlin said he’s also raised concerns, repeatedly, about a deep hole just off the corner of his driveway, where a sharp-edged culvert sits.
He said his grandchildren, ages five, six and 10, come to his place nearly every weekend, and have fallen into the hole and gotten hurt. In summer, it is covered in grass and hard to see.
“I’ve put Band-Aids on my grandkids because of that hole,” he said. “I told them about it, they don’t care.”
And, he said, his mobile home is sinking down into the ground, damaging its lower siding.
Parlin also said two medium-sized trees fell on his home this winter, and park maintenance crews said they’d come remove the trees, but didn’t. He said the impact of one of the trees cracked the Sheetrock on his home’s ceiling, but the park owner has refused to fix the ceiling.
Crocker said trees came down all over Augusta this winter, and he already has gotten bids to have someone come in and clean up the trees that fell in his parks.
“They’d like to think they’ve got a slumlord, that we don’t take care of the community, but I think we do a pretty good job,” Crocker said. “We do spring cleanup, fall cleanup. We do credit checks, don’t allow rentals and have standards for community living. We ran out most of the drug dealers. I think we run a really good community. Is it perfect? No.”
He said most of the complaints at his parks that house hundreds of residents, come from 10 or so habitual complainers.
Crocker said he has an on-site manager to oversee his Augusta parks, a full-time year-round maintenance worker, and two or three maintenance people in the summer.
“Every penny we make, we put back into the park,” he said.
Mason said Crocker is putting very little money into the park.
Traxler said she’s never been late with a rent payment in the 30 years she’s lived in her mobile home, and said she had no complaints when Schiavi owned and ran the park. She said a recent rent increase makes matters worse.
“Schiavi kept it up nicely, but not this guy out in California,” she said. “All we are, to them, is a number in the park.”
Keith Edwards – 621-5647 [email protected] Twitter: @kedwardskj