Homeowners forced out

Some homeowners in the Downtown Mobile Home Park on North 12th Street face uncertainty after the city served notice June 30 the electricity to their homes would be shut off later this month; others are making plans to move on.

Jed Carlson/ Leaning pedestals in the Downtown Mobile Home Park are among the electrical code violations that prompted city officials to notify residents they will have to vacate by July 25.

Some homeowners in the Downtown Mobile Home Park on North 12th Street face uncertainty after the city served notice June 30 the electricity to their homes would be shut off later this month; others are making plans to move on.

The city secured a warrant to turn off the power to the mobile homes at 8 a.m. July 25 after years of battling the park owner to correct electric code violations.
While some repairs have been made by the owner, Brian Androski, city officials say he failed to act on violations with the electrical infrastructure going to residents’ homes.

“It’s life safety issues out there … electrical issues mainly,” said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director. “It’s bare wires. It’s leaning pedestals. It’s electrocution type of stuff.”

However, Androski said the leaning pedestals are just a normal function of standing in clay soil.

“We live in clay country,” Androski said. “Once somebody has a leak or it gets kind of damp, the pedestal, they will eventually start to lean. We take and straighten them back up in the spring and pound them down real tight again and it’s back to normal.”



Caught in the middle

“I’m just so frazzled, I don’t know what to do,” said Kathy Mains, a six-year Downtown Mobile Home Park resident who cares for a disabled veteran, Henry Niemann. “It’s home, but it’s not no more … Where are you going to go that’s going to be handicap accessible for him?

He has two dogs. I’m just packing and hoping for the best.”

Mains said they may move in with her son until they can figure it out, but she’s worried what will happen to the home Niemann owns, built in 1978 and older than some mobile home parks will accept.

Residents were notified June 30 that the power would be cut to their homes July 25, at which time they could no longer live there. 

“Just give us more time,” said David Sickler, 62, who lives in a 1968 mobile home owned by his sister. “It’s just a mess … It’s a scary proposition to have someone say you have to leave your house.”

He said he knows he can’t stay. He needs electricity because a lung condition requires him to be on oxygen, and he needs air conditioning to cope with hot weather.
“The worst thing is this has been going on for six years, and this is the first we hear about it, 26 days before you decide to close the park up,” Sickler said. “And there are people worse off than me.”


Sickler said one of his neighbors had to tell his sick wife they were going to have to move while she was in the hospital.

“These are our homes, our shelter,” Sickler said. 

Serck said the city has been dealing with the property owner because he is the one responsible for the condition of the mobile home park.

“All I know is there’s a lot of broken hearts right now,” said Linda Hunter, Sickler’s sister. “It comes down to what they’re going to do.”

Hunter said she will still be responsible for the mobile home, but doesn’t know what she’s going to do with it now that the park is closing. Her brother plans to leave and she no longer lives in Superior.

“How do you get yourself organized in 25 days?” Hunter asked. “I don’t know how people are going to manage even that. It’s just so overwhelming for them. They may lose everything they own.”

Others are just preparing to move on. One woman, who did not want to be identified, said she applied for and was already accepted to move into Homecroft Court. While Homecroft will pay to have the mobile home moved, she will still foot the bill for an installer, and to move her porches and the tall shed her husband built. She was still making arrangements for the move Tuesday.

“This is not any fault of our own that we have to move,” the woman said.
“I feel really bad,” Androski said. “We’ve got elderly people on oxygen. They called me crying. I didn’t even hear about this. I didn’t know what was going on. I said ‘I don’t know what to tell you guys. There’s nothing wrong with the electrical.’” Androski said the notice was later faxed to him at his request.



Code violations

The city noted code violations going back to 2010. It wasn’t until 2013 and 2014 when the city started in earnest to address the problems at the mobile home park. In June 2014, the city issued orders to correct electrical issues, according to city officials. Two months later, after the city issued citations, Androski hired Benson Electric to upgrade the electrical service.

Androski said he did the work, but didn’t agree it needed to be done. After all, in 35 years, he said he’s never had a fuse blow. It cost Androski about $30,000, he said.
But that’s all that was done, according to city officials.

In May, the city secured an inspection warrant and hired an independent electrical inspector to evaluate the situation. 

Ron Janikowski of Badger State Consulting & Inspection Service served as chief electrical inspector for the city of Wausau, Wis. He found many pedestals leaning in late May. According to the report,

“Power pedestals were inspected with many leaning and even supported so they don’t tip completely over,” Janikowski wrote. He noted electrical box knockouts that weren’t used that did not have closure plates, creating an electric shock hazard. He also said when he compared notes to city inspections conducted in 2010, 2013 and 2014, it “revealed very little or no change to the pedestal conditions.”

The leaning pedestals pose a risk of electrical shock because wires are being stretched and there’s stress on the terminals, said Peter Kruit, Superior building inspector.


“You never know when it’s going to break or if it has broke … anybody that walks by it, you just don’t know. We know about it. It has to be corrected,” Kruit said.

According to Janikowski’s report, the main electrical service installed by Benson Electric meets National Electrical Code standards, but the company’s recommendation to separate wire feeders wasn’t acted on and the feeders are undersized for the number of sites served. 
Other deficiencies noted include grounding electrodes heaving out of the ground, and cables and conductors not encased in conduit.

“This inspection revealed many electric code violations,” Janikowski concluded in his inspection report.


No more delays

City officials say delaying the park closure could make it harder for residents to move their homes - three months would put it off until the fall.

“It’s about the people and how do we deal with that?” Serck said, explaining delays in city action. “Unfortunately, they’re in the middle of this, so we’ve got to provide some resources for them.”

Serck said the city notified residents as quickly as they could, enlisting the help of Millie Rounsville of Northwest Community Services Agency and Barb Certa-Werner of Harbor Houses Crisis Shelters because they could help residents with housing services. City officials gathered information about alternatives from other mobile home parks to housing services. 


“We needed to get out in front of this because sometimes this housing assistance takes seven to 10 days, and we wanted to make sure, because the 25th is our date to issue the warrant and get in there to cut his electrical service to the whole park,” Serck said.

“We’re going to work with the state to stop this,” Androski said.

“We’ve exhausted every avenue we have to make it (repairs) happen,” Kruit said. “We’ve come to the end of our rope.”

But it’s residents who feel like they’re left dangling.

“My garden will be torn up. I know it will … it’s all uprooted,” Mains said.

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