RICHMOND — After years of neglect, Meadowbrook Trailer Park is in the early stages of a potential turnaround.
New owner Rick Breton said he’ll spend up to $400,000 in the next year to upgrade the infrastructure and put in 39 new homes at the park, which he’ll rename Meadowbrook Community Mobile Home Park.
Some of the tenants are leaving, but Breton said no one will be displaced while he makes improvements, as long as they pay their rent.
A company Breton co-owns, Colonial Homes LLC, closed last week on the purchase of Meadowbrook from Russ Edwards, a Peaks Island resident who had owned the property since 1987.
In May, Edwards was stripped of his license to operate the park and fined for his failure to fix water and sewage problems this spring, leading to unsanitary conditions and a brief eviction for the nine households living there. Edwards blamed a park manager for depriving him of income from Meadowbrook since last year, but the park had also failed every inspection by the Manufactured Housing Board since 1990.
Despite that history and Meadowbrook’s current state of disrepair, Breton said he saw potential in the park’s location on a dead-end road, large lots and connections to municipal water and sewer systems.
“There were problems due to lack of management,” Breton said. “That could be one of the nicest parks in the state of Maine, done right.”
Colonial Homes took over management of Meadowbrook in early May, the same week the Manufactured Housing Board revoked Edwards’ license. Company employees repaired the pothole-ridden dirt road and began clearing rubbish and demolishing old trailers.
They’ve installed new utilities systems in three lots near the entrance and will put down concrete pads on those lots this week, Breton said.
Breton also paid nearly $19,000 in liens the town had placed against the property for nonpayment of taxes and about $27,000 to the Richmond Utilities District, which Superintendent Frank Talbot said represented five or six years of unpaid water and sewer bills.
Breton said he envisions Meadowbrook as a community for working families where the residents own their homes.
Colonial Homes will have to get a license from the Manufactured Housing Board before moving in any new residents, and the company won’t be able to get one until all the corrections are made from a list prepared by housing board staff. Doug Dunbar, spokesman for the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, said housing board staff are staying in contact with Breton, who has begun filing paperwork for the change in ownership.
On May 9, Breton gave tenants a 30-day notice to vacate, with the caveat that the notice would be void if they could prove they’d paid May rent to either Edwards or former park manager John Wilson and then paid June rent to Colonial Homes. The deadline to pay June rent is Saturday, and Breton said he’ll start eviction proceedings by June 15 against anyone who misses that deadline.
A few residents have already moved out, while others plan to stay. Breton said once new homes are ready, he can move tenants out of the old ones and demolish them without displacing anyone.
Norma Duperre, who lived at Meadowbrook for eight years, the longest of anyone, plans to move to Augusta this week. Her move had already been in the works because her trailer failed an inspection for Section 8, the housing voucher program for low-income people.
Duperre said she’s impressed with the improvements that Colonial Homes has made so far and with Breton’s response to a power outage that affected half the park recently.
“He came right away,” she said. “He was here so quick when that happened. If it was Russ, we would have been without electric for a long time.”
Tyson Joseph Goldstein and Brett Hollowell plan to stay at Meadowbrook, and Goldstein said the new management seems to be “all business.”
“I have some faith in what I’ve seen here so far,” he said. “These guys definitely have the money to do whatever they want.”
In addition to Colonial Homes, Breton owns two other companies that operate 15 mobile home parks in central Maine. He has been in the rental real estate market for 27 years and has run mobile home parks for 10 years, he said.
Wilson said he has dropped plans to organize the tenants to buy the park and operate it as a co-op, with the help of a nonprofit organization that converts mobile home parks to cooperatives. Wilson said it would have been too expensive to finance improvements to the park, raising rents beyond the tenants’ ability to pay, even if they could have pre-empted Edwards’ sale to Colonial Homes.
Wilson said he will continue living at Meadowbrook and is working with Breton to determine what Edwards owes him for his work managing the park in the past year.
The transition has not been without tension. Wilson’s partner, Leo Huff, was charged last month with assaulting a maintenance worker who lives in the park.
The man, hired by Wilson when he was manager, has taken a job with Colonial Homes. Richmond Police Chief Scott MacMaster said Huff allegedly grabbed the man by the neck after hearing him talk about problems with Wilson’s management of the park. The case has been forwarded to the Sagadahoc County district attorney.
Wilson said Monday that he and Huff are frustrated about having to pay for repairs to the sewer and water systems this spring and not being paid by Edwards. Huff and the maintenance worker are on amicable terms, Wilson said.