Resident claims Mayer mobile home park unsafe
County official says electrical work not up to code
9/12/2011 9:56:00 PM
By Scott Orr
PRESCOTT - Sada Cushman and her two small children are living with her father in a small apartment off Willow Creek.
This is where she said she ended up after leaving a rented mobile home at the Chimney Ranch Mobile Home Park in Mayer. Cushman, engaged at the time, moved there with her fiancé because it was closer to the place he worked.
In November 2010, the couple moved into space No. 39. The trouble began soon afterward.
Lights in the rooms would grow brighter, then dimmer. The washing machine made the lights flicker in time with its agitation.
In February, the water heater stopped working, Cushman said. Jeff Bulman, the park's new maintenance man, looked at it and reported to Cushman that the Romex wiring leading to the heater had melted. Bulman rewired the water heater.
Later that month, a wall socket in the living room started sparking, said Cushman. Bulman replaced it.
Meanwhile, she had discovered a rat's nest of wiring behind the stove. Bulman took a look and, she claims, told her that the previous maintenance workers had done "whatever worked." He did not repair the wiring.
Bulman is not a licensed contractor.
Problems began to mount, with more and more electrical issues cropping up.
Finally, Cushman said, she called Yavapai County Development Services and asked for a building inspector to come out. On Aug. 8, Senior Building Inspector Patricia Raines took a look at unit 39 and wrote up more than 20 violations in the wiring. She then tagged the unit "Unsafe to Occupy."
A rent dispute ensued and Cushman ended up leaving.
The owner of the Chimney Ranch Mobile Home Park told a different version of that story. Paul Loberg bought the park about two years ago. He freely stated the previous owner was a "slumlord" and said he has been trying to repair the place.
The problems, Loberg said, are two-fold: one, residents frequently try to make their own repairs, and two, they have learned to tamper with wiring, and then call a building inspector when they are about to be evicted, usually for non-payment of rent. This, he claimed, "buys them some time."
Bulman, he said, does not need to be licensed because he lives on the property and works for Loberg.
That's true, said Steve Mauk, director of Yavapai County Development Services. But, he said, Bulman's work is "sub-par." While he doesn't need an electrical contractor's license, "that does not mean (the work) doesn't have to be to code."
"What happens out there consistently is that they have historically done work without permits, which creates a problem of some kind," Mauk said.
Loberg denies that and says the residents have intentionally caused problems with wiring in several cases. "We have had to fix electrical issues," he said. "If (the residents) purposely make something dangerous, that's criminal. It's a criminal act."
In February, a fire destroyed one of the park's mobile homes. Two residents escaped the overnight fire without injury. An electrical problem was blamed for the blaze. But Loberg said that fire was suspicious, too; he said the residents were using "illegal" electric space heaters. He also said there was an electrical outlet "missing" from the wall.
"Insurance has not paid for a single thing for the residents," he said. "They never even contacted (the insurance company) to file a claim." Loberg takes that as a tacit admission of guilt.
Mauk said he's spent too much money and time having his people go to Mayer time and again to deal with code violations at Chimney Ranch. After what he called an "unusual number of violations," Mauk had the property tagged so that he must personally approve any enforcement actions.
"County resources are being expended over and over again because they are making a conscious choice to not get permits," he said. "Given that, if I have another code violation out there, we will not have an opportunity to work with them. We will go to court to get back the money spent on enforcement."
"That's taxpayers' money they're spending," Mauk added.
For his part, Loberg said he's fed up with the problems and he's put the mobile home park up for sale. "I am really sick of it. I am trying to do what I can for these people."
"It's the random people who are just behind one month on the rent who make the complaints," he said.
Sada Cushman denies the allegation that residents are intentionally altering the wiring and said she did not make her own repairs. She said an attorney told her there is potential for a class-action lawsuit against Loberg and Bulman.
"I just don't want him to do this to more people," Cushman said. "There's 60 units in this park, and if mine was like this, and another one burned down, the odds say there are more of them like this."