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Local contractor upset with Oxford Pines park
OXFORD — When local business owner Bill Penfold heard about the rent hike at the Oxford Pines Regency mobile home park, he says that he could hardly believe his ears.
"When I heard them raising the revenue in the park," said Penfold, "[I thought] well, wait a minute? Why are you charging these people when you're not paying your bills to begin with?"
Penfold's beef with the park centers around a bill for $7,000, which has been owed to him since his company, Oxford Auto Salvage, hauled 700 yards of debris from an illegal "stump dump" behind the park during the first week of June.
"We can't work for free up here," said Penfold. "When you figure out the trucking, the loading, and everything that we did over there, that was a lot of output for me, cash-wise."
Penfold says that he was counting on receiving the money this winter. "Seven months is a long time to wait for money," he said.
Penfold says that, when he did the work, everything seemed to be running smoothly.
"[Park Manager Cindy Hodgdon] even called ahead of time got the PO [Purchase Order] number, the work order for it, got everything lined up," said Penfold. He says that she warned him that payment could take three or four months. "Three or four months waiting for my money wasn't a big deal. I did the job, did everything she wanted, and she was real happy."
Now, however, Penfold says that he's going to court to get paid.
"I've called I don't know how many times," said Penfold. "Most people are 30 days. I gave them 120 right off the bat to begin with."
He is suing for the original bill, interest, and legal fees.
Penfold says that the park's failure to pay bills is part of the same management style that led to a Christmas-time rent increase, and that has driven many renters away.
"A lot of trailers have left there," said Penfold. "There's a lot of empty spots."
Penfold says that, even if he gets his check tomorrow, he wouldn't work for the Oxford Pines Regency again.
"Probably not," said Penfold. "Even if I was starving. Because what's the sense of putting money out?"
To add insult to injury, Penfold says that, although Hodgdon was happy with his work, in December, the park hired someone else to do the rest of the hauling work from the area.
William Butler, who works for the DEP's solid waste management division, says that he imparted some advice to Hodgdon.
"I can only tell you that I suggested to Cindy that she pay Bill," said Butler.
Butler should know whether the work was completed, because the cleanup was mandated by the DEP in the first place.
"We instructed the park to clean up that stump dump, and then get at ... waste that was buried within," said Butler.
The problem is a massive pile of stumps, brush, and trash that accumulated behind the trailer park.
"If you've ever looked at the stump dump, it comes right up against where there are a number of mobile homes that are part of the park," said Butler. "Residents of those homes were throwing trash and you-name-it over the bank, and as a result, it needed to be cleaned up. The maintenance man for the park couldn't get to it because there was so much brush in the way."
Butler says that the problem is unusual in that it has cropped up right next to a perfectly legal outlet for the waste.
"When you consider you can literally throw a rock and hit the transfer station, it just seems to make no sense whatsoever," said Butler.
"One would ask, why don't you just transfer your brush over to the transfer station instead of throwing it into a very ... environmentally sensitive area?" said Butler. "It turns out that nobody had really asked the transfer station if they could do that."
Butler met with Penfold and Sumner Sessions, who had taken over the job, to check on progress. In accordance with a recently-released DEP document, Sessions will take trash and smaller-diameter wood to the nearby transfer station.
As for the stumps, Sessions will be "placing those stumps along the edge of the access road for use in creating a barrier wall."
Penny wise, pound foolish?
Ironically, the park's penny-pinching business practices may be costing revenues in the long run.
Assuming that the local contractors are eventually paid, cleaning up the illegal stump dump will cost the park an estimated $17,000.
It's an expense that may never have been incurred, if not for disgruntled renters.
"There's been some ongoing issues that we've been told, allegedly, have been occurring from within the park," said Butler, "some frustration between some of the homeowners or home lessees and management. So we've heard a little bit about that."
The bad blood turned into a big bill for the park when an unhappy renter brought the DEP into the park under false pretenses.
"We got a complaint that some asbestos pipe had been disposed of in the stump dump," said Butler. "We went out and looked at it ... and it appeared to us that it had been staged, that someone had propped that pipe up, and we could not find any other asbestos pipe to support that."
Even though the asbestos pipe seems to have been a red herring, it did draw Butler's attention to the stump dump, which could have been harboring asbestos or other hazardous materials.
"Unless you removed every bit of that, you would not be able to confirm undeniably that that was the only thing that was there," said Butler.
"One thing led to another, and we felt, 'gee, the best way to really solve this problem is, let's get rid of the stump dump,'" said Butler, "and then you're not going to have anyone, including the maintenance man, throwing stuff over."
Cindy Hodgdon, manager of the park, declined to comment for this story.
"No one is interested in talking about it," said Hodgdon.
"She's a very nice lady," said Penfold. "I feel bad because I think she's caught in the middle."