New Port Richey taxpayers are officially on the hook for paying a contractor an estimated $62,600 to clean up the mess at Walden Pond Mobile Home Park.
City council members unanimously directed city staff Tuesday to hire outside help to raze more than 50 condemned trailers and for a general cleanup at the property.
The city is going to pursue a lien against the owners.
Walden Pond has been a problem for city officials for months. This past Summer, the mobile home park's owners ordered residents to leave, but failed to follow legal guidelines for eviction. Since then, some residents have vacated the park; others have remained behind. The dumpsters that served the park's residents have been removed.
Earlier this month, city leaders passed an emergency resolution condemning unsafe trailers at the park. That resolution allows city staff to raze the condemned trailers if so directed.
The attorney representing Walden Pond, LLC, the entity that owns the park, said at that time the park’s ownership had put in place an “action plan” to address concerns at the property. City leaders at that time opted to give the park owners a chance to clean up the mess.
City officials panned the park owner's attorney last week after Walden Pond, LLC, failed to take step to improve conditions at the property. The owners hadn't posted security at the park or signed a settlement agreement for getting the condemned trailers razed and the property cleaned up.
On Tuesday, Walden Pond’s ownership still hadn’t given city leaders a signed settlement agreement. There were still no security guards posted at the park and still no dumpsters on the property. The owners also had not agreed to a city-proposed plan to put up fencing at the park.
The ownership had, however, begun asbestos testing on the trailers.
Paul Beraquit, managing partner for Walden Pond LLC, was at the Oct. 16 meeting.
City Council members weren’t happy with the company.
Councilman Bob Langford said he didn’t “have good faith any longer in the owners.” He passionately asked Beraquit why the company had not completed a to-do list.
“You’re not being responsible at all,” Langford said
Beraquit told the council he was working to have a part time person monitor the property and to put a 20-yard dumpster at the park. He complained about finances being limited and not getting rent payments since May. He said the company is not “turning our back.”
“We’re trying to be a good landowner,” he said.
Not good enough.
The city has condemned 52 unsafe vacant trailers at Walden Pond. Four additional trailers have collapsed. People are stripping trailers. There are still 24-26 people living at the park. Some own their trailers. Trash has piled up at the park in the absence of dumpsters. The city picked up a mound of garbage as month, but a new trash pile is replacing it.
Langford made the motion to have the city take care of the mess at Walden Pond.
"I would like for us to remedy it because he's not," he said, indicating Beraquit.
Tenants still living in rented or owned trailers that have not been condemned can remain at the park until a legal eviction process is followed or they move out.
Council member Bill Phillips, who has experience in the real estate business, asked how many partners Walden Pond, LLC, has and Beraquit told him there were four.
Regarding the settlement agreement, Phillips noted that with four partners, “I’m not sure they are ever going to find the right place for us.”
He cited the lack of progress Walden Pond has made in cleaning up the park and public safety concerns.
He called it “offensive” that Walden Pond’s ownership hasn’t been diligent. The quality of life issue at the park has taken time away from other important issues.
“Let’s just get it done,” he said. “Let’s get it cleaned up.”