Lakeshore residents call community meeting over concerns
Neglected neighborhood needs attention say citizens
Residents in the Lakeshore Estates mobile home community packed a double wide at the church in the community to air complaints against trailer park management. Cassy Bretherick presented a well organized slide show documenting chronic problems with utilities, and neighborhood issues. The meeting served to galvanize neighbors and alert elected officials about the run down conditions in the second largest trailer park in Arkansas. Trailer park management was under investigation by the State Attorney General office.
Two investigators with the State Attorney General’s Office, the sheriff’s office along with three representatives in the Crittenden County Quorum Court heard Bretherick allege exorbitant overcharges for utility services and neglect on the part of Lakeshore management in maintaining the community. Residents talked about getting a lawyer to represent them as a group.
“I’ve gathered as many of you and government officials here today as I could, to hear our story and hopefully act on the loophole that plagues us.” said Bretherick.
Bretherick reviewed a long list of common complaints from neighbors and had done some homework demonstrating the sad state of the decaying community. About 80 residents heard a litany of concerns about over grown utility easements, sewage leaks, obsolete fire hydrants, burned out and broken street lights, tire dumping, speeders, blight, exorbitant water bills, reconnect fees, high garbage bills and vandalism.
Bretherick talked about the 1966 amenity agreement with the management company to take care of the community and said its been an all downhill 20 year long slide for the once nice community. The first impression of the neighborhood is a burnt down store and campground at the main entrance and the impression carries through the rest of the neighborhood.
Bretherick covered the list of issues in a 38 minute Powerpoint presentation.
• Natural gas “According to Entergy our easements are over grown and unmaintained and is considering shutting off the entire gas service to this community due to safety issues with their employees,” said Bretherick.
• Fire hydrants Marion and West Memphis take turns responding to calls as the park is situated inside an incorporated donut hole between the two city limits.
“I was informed by both Marion and West Memphis fire chiefs that our hydrant system is pretty much nonfunctioning. That is why they respond with a tanker engine because there is no guarantee that the hydrant is working.”
• Raw sewage spills, open holes at unfinished repair sites, “These holes left open were dangerous and big enough for a grownup to fall into; just imagine if a chid had fallen into them.
One also had an exposed active gas line. They’ve been cited by the sate for sewage before.”
• Street lights “Most of us don’t venture out after dark. Mr. Burgos (property manager) said they cost $1,000 to repair. But when I call Entergy they said there was no charge for repair.”
• Lien notices. Homes were tagged by the county for unmaintained lots and abandoned buildings. “Its always good to see them but where is the follow-up? We are told some of them are in probate, but that is just a small percentage. Do you have bugs, rats, mice no matter what you do because
one of these houses is
next door to you?”
• Midnight dumping -Tires “No one knows how they rolled up but they don’t roll away.”
• County trash truck “We are thankful to Judge Wheeless for the claw truck the last few months, however I’d like to work out a specific, regular schedule so things don’t start piling up again.” Burning was
• Negligent owners “Landlords should be responsible for vacated or evicted renter’s junk and not the county or this community.”
• Speed enforcement Speed humps were installed by the county but made little impact. “’We still sit everyday as the same automobiles rip and roar through our streets and don’t even stop at stop signs. The speed humps don’t slow them down.”
• Unkempt parks “Our kids have to play in the streets because our parks are over grown.”
Most often, private home owners take turns mowing the community park, a duty for the management company.
• Dead Fish “Arkansas Fish and Game explained to me this is a natural occurrence in a low level lake, but it could have been prevented.”
• Garbage rates too high.
After a series of reduced and irregulars services, and trash being picked up using a horse trailer, Dedmans was finally contracted by the property manager Buddy Burgos. Residents are charged $20 per month.
“Dedmans pickup service is $13/per month on a website with a two dollar discount for senior citizens; this was not offered to the community.”
• Water reconnect fees rate at $175 through the Lakeshore Water Association according to the presentation.
“That is almost six times what West Memphis charges.”
• Exorbitant water bills.
Some lots have water meters, some don’t. Some residents complain of regular overcharges from improperly read meters. Standard monthly water rates were once on a 5,000 gallon basis now its 2,000. Bretherick obtained West Memphis water rates for the Lakeshore Water Association through the Freedom of information Act for one and half years ending in November 2017. Brethericks’s math showed a big gross profit for the Lakeshore Water Association.
• Sewage rates. Marion handles the sewage, but just like water and trash the bills are consolidated, uprated and handled through the management company.
“Contracted to himself under Joel Burgos Company that runs Lakeshore.
Their business site show this as their annual revenue, half a million to a million dollars a year company, and Lakeshore looks like it does.”
• Homeowners association fees cost $5.00 and were addressed by a group of homeowners to Burgos.
“Afterwards you took the shady fee off our bills but put it back on under increased sewer fees the next month, yes we noticed.”
The group went into a question and answer period and moved onto the business of pursuing legal representation. State investigators with the Attorney General insisted they were not authorized to make a statement but when asked why they were there, responded “we are here to listen.”
Justice of the Peace Joe Marotti represents the trailer park on the Quorum Court and reacted to the information he heard during the meeting.
“Its a good start they need to form a group, a board our a council and get some kind of government together,” said Marotti.
“They have the Attorney Generals representatives here. They are here to see if what is going on with the water bills is legal or not.
That’s what they need, some legal insight.
Quorum Court Justice Robert Thorne, who owns a lot in the neighborhood, saud he has already met with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on the matter.
“I was in Little Rock last Friday and met with the Attorney General and her chief of staff,” said Thorne. “They had the complaints and they had opened the investigation into what is going on. He (Burgos) has a business. Is there a limit to how much he can mark up the utilities?”
“It would be one thing if he was taking that money and reinvesting it into the community because that stuff is expensive,” said Justice Lisa O’Neal. “If the hydrants worked and the sewer wasn’t spilling out, that would be one thing, but it’s not the case here. “
“I came here to find out more about what is going on,” said Thorne. “I think they have legitimate concerns. I hope they have patience and let the law work in their favor. I represent the people, but there are always two sides to the story and now we need to hear the answer.”
By John Rech