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23 days without water: mobile home park owner ordered to explain

State seeks to sanction owner for contempt following court order
The state filed a motion Friday demanding that Darlene Mann, owner of the Lightner Creek Mobile Home Park, explain why she has yet to comply with a Feb. 28 court order that she supply 20 gallons of potable water to each resident of the park per day. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs has filed a motion in 6th Judicial District Court requesting that Darlene Mann, the beleaguered owner of Lightner Creek Mobile Home Park, be held in contempt for failing to comply with terms of a previous order.

A restraining order issued Feb. 28 by District Judge Kim Shropshire compelled Mann to provide 20 gallons of potable water per day to the park’s approximately 75 residents, who have been without running water since at least Feb. 13. It also required that she clean up spilled sewage on the property, provide portable toilets and reimburse residents for expenses related to the utility problems.

Christina Postolowski, program manager with the Mobile Home Park Oversight Program at DOLA, first issued a cease-and-desist order on Feb. 15 seeking to enforce the Mobile Home Park Act.

When Mann did not comply, the agency took her to court to enforce the order. Now the agency is requesting that Mann be fined by the court for contempt, alleging that she has still failed to comply with the court’s order.

Shropshire ordered Monday that Mann appear in court on March 14 to explain her failure to comply and “show cause why sanctions or imprisonment should not be imposed.”

Mann has provided two large tanks of water to the park that were filled by a reputable supplier of potable water, according to her attorney John Seibert.

However, because Mann failed to provide documentation of the water source or history of those tanks to experts at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the agency declared that the water was not potable. The Mobile Home Park Act requires landlords provide potable water to residents in the event of disruption to water service.

Residents of Lightner Creek Mobile Home Park, such as former manager Johnnie Staley, have not had running water for 23 days. (Reuben Schafir/Durango Herald file)

Shropshire told Mann’s attorney during the Feb. 28 hearing that his client needed to either deliver a large quantity of potable water that met CDPHE standards or deliver 20 gallons of sealed water bottles to each resident of the park per day.

According to the motion seeking to cite Mann for contempt, several households in the park received fewer than 7 gallons of bottled water, while at least one did not receive any water.

Seibert said contractors had expected to bring the water system back online last week on Friday, but newly discovered problems delayed that by about a week. He said Mann did not provide more potable water because she had expected the system to be up and running.

“My client doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “The court order with 20 gallons per occupant per day – that’s more than $5,000 a day.”

DOLA’s motion to hold Mann in contempt also says that, according to Seibert, as of Thursday, Mann “did not attempt to or otherwise fully remove the sewage and impacted soils.”

Seibert disputed that in an email to The Durango Herald, in which he says that remediation had been completed before the Feb. 28 hearing.

Park resident Andrea Clark said Monday that the spilled sewage remained.

Seibert affirmed that Mann is working toward a solution. He said he provided CDPHE on Thursday with evidence that the water in the tanks had come from Well on Wheels and that the tanks were purchased new at Tractor Supply Co. The agency requested further testing, which a certified water professional is now conducting.

“From my perspective, DOLA is proceeding too quickly to seek a penalty given LCMHP’s efforts to have the jugs or totes approved as safe for human consumption and to complete repairs and testing of the water system,” Seibert said in an email.


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