A recent business-forced residential mobile home evacuation in Jersey Shore, near Williamsport, was not without precedent. It was not even a rare circumstance.
Circa 1998, the Giant grocery store in our town decided to move from in-town to just-outside-of-town. That was bad news for a few dozen residents in a trailer park where the Giant wanted to be.
There was some outcry, but Giant anted $2,500 for each single-wide mobile home and $5,000 for each double-wide to help the residents move. Many of them moved to purchased sites, some to houses and some rented in area mobile home parks.
The grocery store was built; it became the anchor in a shopping center that included a restaurant, a Hallmark card and gift store, a Blockbuster video store, and others.
Life went on until April 2007, when the remaining residents received a letter from their out-of-town landlord. A developer was going to build an unspecified big box retail store, and the mobile home residents had to begin making new housing arrangements, the letter said.
There was no deadline noted for them to leave, but in the ensuing months the landlord gradually increased pressure, finally requiring any then-remaining residents to get out by September. Many of the residents were low-income, the mobile homes in which they lived were too old and decrepit to withstand the strain of moving.
Among the evicted were a 71-year-old woman living alone, another woman who had lived 41 years in her mobile home, and a family that had moved in only 20 days before receiving the initial notice to make new housing arrangements.
Eventually, a coalition comprising the county and a couple of social service agencies came up with some money, and everyone was relocated. There was an effort to push a bill through the state legislature that would require businesses forcing such an evacuation to pay for it, but that never went very far, and this year, another company repeated the scenario.
Aqua America, a multi-state water company specializing in buying up small municipal-size water plants, and Penn Virginia Resource Partners, joined forces to create Aqua-PVR Water Services. Aqua-PVR purchased the Jersey Shore mobile home park, and issued get-out-of-the-way notices to the nearly 40 residents. The company needed the site for access to the Susquehanna River, from which it intends to draw three million gallons of water a day to supply fracking operations in the mountains north of town.
Fracking is the process of drilling more than a mile down, into Marcellus Shale laden with natural gas. The water is pumped into the shale under great pressure, shattering the rock, and releasing the gas. Eventually, the wells will be connected by pipelines to consumers.
If residents had to leave their homes to make the project possible, so be it, goes industry policy. The nation needs the gas, the companies need the profits, and Aqua-PVR claims about 1,000 tanker trucks would be taken off the roads by piping, rather than trucking, the water from the river to the mountains.
The only way to prevent someone building on the acreage behind, or under, your home is to buy the property. Business is business. And Aqua-PVR reportedly did offer $2,500 incentives to the families who lived in Riverdale Mobile Home Park.
But that is a token amount, just enough the company can say it offered some help. It costs much more than $2,500 to disconnect, move and reconnect a mobile home, assuming it could be moved. Or to leave one behind and buy another one because the one left behind could not be moved. And trailer parks that find themselves in the way of industry often are home to people who cannot afford to live someplace nicer, or financially safer.
One might think an industry that spent so much money to limit the taxes it would pay would have enough money left over to move the low-income residents who had the misfortune to go to bed in the way of a water pipe.
Photo by ferret111
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