Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Demolition begins at Walden Pond Mobile Home Park

NEW PORT RICHEY — Michael Stanley's mobile home sits in the heart of a city demolition zone. But he's not going anywhere.

As crews Tuesday began razing the first of 50-some crumbling units in the Walden Pond Mobile Home Park, Stanley watched with relief as the heavy machinery turned trailers across from his home into metal toothpicks.

"It already looks like a war zone, so how is this going to be any worse?" he said. "It's just good to see some improvement."

Stanley, 50, a retired electrician, is one of a handful of residents still living in the dilapidated park off Oelsner Drive, just west of U.S. 19, and soon his mobile home will be one of the few left standing. About 10 units still have either owners or renters living in them and will be spared in the city-mandated cleanup.

The demolition came after months of wrangling between city officials and the park owner, Walden Pond LLC, which sent letters to residents in July telling them the park was closing and they had to leave.

Walden Pond managing partner Paul Beraquit has told the City Council that residents had stopped paying rent and his partnership tried to close the park for financial reasons. City officials said the park failed to follow proper eviction procedures. Some residents stayed, some left, and looters began tearing up empty units for scrap.

Stanley stayed behind because he owns his mobile home and it can't be moved from its concrete slab. He bought it 10 years ago and shares it with his 6-year-old son, Kody.

"It's the only home my son has ever known," Stanley said. "I've not been made an offer that is anywhere close to fair. I'm not asking for anything more than what's fair."

In the meantime, the park owners removed a Dumpster from the property, resulting in the accumulation of a fetid heap that city crews removed in September, at a cost of about $2,000.

The deteriorating conditions brought city code enforcement officer Liz Nichols to Walden Pond about three times a day to monitor the park and write numerous citations. New Port Richey Police Chief James Steffens also told council members that he had to increase patrols at the park dramatically to fight crime.

"I am really happy to see this day," Nichols said Tuesday at the demolition site.

During several hearings, an appalled City Council blasted Beraquit for allowing the conditions to deteriorate. The council offered to allow Walden Pond to conduct its own demolition, but the owners refused to sign a deal to reimburse the city for its costs at the park. So the council voted to hire its own contractor to raze the condemned units, then send Walden Pond the bill.

Last week, Beraquit made one last plea for his company to handle the demolition itself. The council voted him down.

After the hearing, he said Walden Pond may sue the city for what he called a "terrorist intervention."

"Why are they using taxpayers' money to do this?" Beraquit said. "Most people walk away from things like this, turn their back. We didn't go anywhere. It makes no sense. We're here. We're ready to do it."

It's unclear what the final tab will be, but the city is spending about $60,000 on the demolition alone. Walden Pond also owes more than $25,000 for unpaid water bills and trash pickup. If Walden Pond doesn't pay, the city could place a lien on the property.

Crews hope to finish the demolition and cleanup of the park by Thanksgiving, according to Joseph Matissek, owner of SC Signature Construction, the contractor hired by the city to complete the project.

Two units have asbestos, Matissek said. They will be taken to a separate landfill that can accept asbestos.

He said although the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ruled air quality testing was not needed during the project, it's being done anyway as crews tear down the units. The city is paying a separate contractor to monitor the air.

"We still have people living here. So it's best for them, it's best for us, and it's best for the city that it's monitored. It's about safety for everyone involved," Matissek said.

Comments
Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

A Tampa man is dead and his 3-year-old son is in serious condition after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as they went on a family bike ride Sunday afternoon.A male suspect is in custody and being interviewed by police but his name has not yet be...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But NHL?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forward who was born in ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

TAMPA ó Stripped to the girders, the old Bromley office building looked about as substantial as fish bones on a dinner plate.But the 5-story structure proved Sunday it still had a surprising amount of fight left in it.A demolition team had planned to...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays season turning into good one

Rays season turning into good one

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays are not the best team in baseball. They are not going to win the World Series this year. Heck, they probably won't even make the playoffs.But I tell you what. This team is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.And ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays first baseman Jake Bauers sat at his locker after Sunday afternoon's 7-6, 12-inning win over the Yankees and thumbed through his text messages. There was no way he could get through them all. That's what happens when ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was only supposed to throw on Sunday if it was an emergency. In the 12th inning with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first, there was an emergency.Jonny Venters tweaked his right hamstring trying to cover firs...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURGSuspect dead, 2 injured in home invasion, shootingThree people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the peop...
Updated: 7 hours ago
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. Thatís what 19-year-old Ce...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A 19-year-old driver died in a three-car crash on Moon Lake Road on Saturday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.Jillian Faith Hitt, 19 and of New Port Richey, was driving north on the road in a 2008 Hyundai Accent, weari...
Published: 06/24/18
President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

STERLING, Ill. - As a longtime editor of small-town newspapers, Jeff Rogers has seen his industry face the collapse of print advertising, the rise of the internet and more. Today, his 18 employees work in a newsroom here that puts out two daily newsp...
Published: 06/24/18