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Mobile home park residents relocated

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BY JOHN H. WALKER
Staff Writer

Monday, May 20, 2019

TARBORO — When Gov. Roy Cooper came to Tarboro to announce the deal that would bring Chinese tire maker Triangle Tire to Edgecombe County, there was jubilation.

After all, the project will be the largest economic development project in the history of rural North Carolina and its estimated 800-to-1,000 jobs will provide an economic shot-in-the-arm for a county that has found itself at or near the top of the state's unemployment rate for far too many years.

But for all the good news, there would be bad news for some.

Based on Triangle's proposed footprint, county officials determined there was another parcel of property that needed to be acquired … one that the county already held an option on.

The only problem was that the land was the site of Midlakes Mobile Home Park, where there were 79 residences — meaning 79 families — and more people — who were facing the prospect of homelessness.

“The night we held a meeting of residents and I had to tell them the county was purchasing the park and they were going to have to find another place to live was one of the more difficult tasks I have had to face,” County Manager Eric Evans told commissioners at their May 6 meeting.

“There were people who were upset and angry, and I understood that,” he continued.

Evans came up with a plan that was discussed following a report by Water & Sewer Utilities Director Mike Matthews that no residents remained as of April 18.

“It is a big hurdle … relocating residents,” Evans said, “But after a unified effort, we are there.”

Evans developed a plan to help compensate residents so that they might be able to find adequate housing,

The results were positive, as pointed out by Matthews and Ola Pittman, who was brought in to help the county with the project.

First, the county collected more than $18,000 in back taxes, Then it received more than $7.000 from the sale of mobile homes.

“Housing is near and dear to me,” Pittman said. “Some of these folks were out there for 30-plus years.”

Pittman, who has worked with the county before on housing-related issues, determined there were Hispanic families who were being lost in the shuffle and didn't understand the process going on around them.

Pittman reached out with the county staff and found a Spanish-speaking employee in the health department and met with her, explaining her concerns and asking for help — which she readily gave — communicating with them and helping them understand what was going on and how they were impacted.

As the process moved along, more and more residents signed settlement agreements with the county and the final tally sheet contained impressive numbers.

“There are 21 (former residents) who are now landowners,” Matthews said. “They took their settlement money and purchased land and moved their home on it. They have something now that they didn't have.”

Matthews said a number of the residents were now saving money on a monthly basis because they found another place to put their home that was less expensive than Midlakes.

Evans, who was praised for coming up with the plan, was humbe.

“Most (residents) were good to work with. It's a hard call to move a citizen and I'm proud of the way we did things and the legal avenues we followed,” he said.

The Edgecombe-Martin Electric Cooperative is in the process of removing the electrical infrastructure and then demolishing the remaining homes, which are not stable enough to be moved.

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