Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
More than 20 families have been displaced after Clayton County police shut down a Jonesboro trailer park because water service was disconnected Aug. 1 for nonpayment.
Police are also investigating owner Victoria Holland for possible criminal activity, said Lt. Tina Daniel. Daniel declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. Daniel said police began Friday to relocate families living at Maria's Mobile Home Park on Museum Circle in Jonesboro.
"Everyone was to be gone by Wednesday afternoon," said Daniel. "No one should be living there now."
Clayton County Water Authority spokeswoman Suzanne Brown said Holland owes about $13,000 in outstanding water bills. Brown said service was disconnected Aug. 1 after officials gave her a 30-day notice.
"She met with our general manager on Aug. 2 and agreed to a payment plan over the next 12 months," said Brown. "She was to bring in a payment of about $1,000 the next day, and we agreed to restore service after she made the payment."
But Brown said Holland did not return as planned.
"We never heard back from her and she hasn't made a payment," said Brown.
Holland does not live in the park and could not be reached for comment. In some news reports, Holland says there was confusion as to whether she or residents are responsible for the $4,000-per-month water bill. But water authority officials said company policy is that the property owner is solely responsible.
Daniel said several advocacy groups were unsuccessful in their attempts to help pay the bill.
Police condemned the park because housing codes do not allow people to live in structures without running water, said Daniel.
"We've not gotten a lot of cooperation from Ms. Holland," she said. "The residents are truly the victims here. It is unfortunate that we had to do this but we didn't just come in at the last minute, and we are assisting residents the best we can."
Clayton Police Sgt. Otis Willis III said Holland was served with a notice of violation. She has been given until Friday to have the water turned on or face multiple citations.
"She was told if the water is not turned on by then, she can be cited for each occupied unit," said Willis.
Willis said 21 of the park's 27 trailers were occupied at the time water service was disconnected. Once water service is restored, residents could return to their homes as long as the structures are in code compliance, he said.
Clayton County Code Enforcement officers cited Holland in Sept. 2009 for failing to maintain property that fronts the park along Tara Boulevard. The county spent $1,175 on a forced cleaning of the property to remove rubbish and cut grass, according to Magistrate Court records. Holland was reportedly told to take preventive measures to deter the dumping of trash on the property.
She pleaded no contest to the citation and was fined $100 and sentenced to five days in jail. The jail sentence was to be suspended pending prompt payment of the fine.