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Commissioners say state funds could help displaced residents of mobile home park in Renville County

OLIVIA -- A state compensation fund could help residents being displaced by the closing of a mobile home park in Renville County.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners informally agreed Tuesday to launch the process under which the state compensation fund can be tapped.

It can provide residents with funds toward the costs of moving their mobile homes or compensate them for aged structures that cannot be safely moved, according to attorney Joseph Langel of Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney in Minneapolis. He represents Gene and Delores Swoboda, owners of the Country Court Mobile Home Park along Renville County Road 1 near the Redwood County line.

The Swobodas and their son, Don, told the commissioners that they are closing the mobile home park, but reluctantly so. The economics of meeting today's environmental and building-code mandates make it impossible to continue the 51-lot park.

Don Swoboda had run for a state Legislature last year on a platform questioning the costs of mandates on small, rural businesses.

There are currently occupied mobile homes on 18 of the lots, according to the Swobodas. They informed the residents in late December of their decision to close the park. That triggered a nine-month clock on its closing, according to the attorney.

The Swobodas have operated the park for 39 years, and said they consider its residents "like family.''

Naturally occurring levels of arsenic in the water from two wells serving the park are higher than federal drinking water standards allow. The Swobodas began looking at ways to remove the arsenic when the federal Environmental Protection Agency revised the drinking water standard for arsenic from 50 micrograms per liter to 10.

The Swobodas said they were willing to invest up to $15,000 to install a filtration system to remove the arsenic. Ecowater of Redwood Falls was able to develop a system that could reduce the arsenic levels to meet the drinking water standards, but that only led to another and even costlier dilemma, according to the Swobodas.

The removed arsenic would need to be treated in an approved wastewater treatment system. The system serving the mobile home park is out of compliance, they said. An estimate provided them five years ago for a mound septic system to serve the park indicated that it would cost "at least'' $500,000, they told the commissioners.

The Swobodas also discovered that new standards would require adding cement pads -- at costs ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 depending on the size of the mobile homes -- on many of the lots.

Faced with those kinds of costs, the Swobodas said it is no longer feasible to continue operating the park.

"We just kind of gave up,'' said Delores Swoboda.

Residents have now begun the process of finding other parks and moving. There are a number of higher-valued, double-wide homes on the lots, and also several older models. The Swobodas anticipate that some of the structures may become their responsibility to demolish and remove.

The Swobodas have been helping residents find new locations and help with moving their homes. They believe the residents will be paying more for smaller-sized lots at other locations.

A $12-a-year fee on mobile home lots funds the state compensation fund. The legislation sets caps on how much a resident can receive for moving or replacement costs. Langel said the compensation is also determined by how much money is available in the fund at a given time.