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Resident says she ‘doesn’t want to live like this anymore’

By SARA NEWMAN

Staff writer

When Lisa Largen’s 11-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter did not show up for school Friday, Jan. 24, at Barstow Elementary a concerned Barstow teacher called Largen to see why.

“I didn’t have water, and my furnace caught on fire,” Largen said of her home at the Hallowing Point Mobile Home Park. After Largen called the park manager, Frank Moneymaker, Largen said Moneymaker sent a maintenance man to fix the furnace but “said he couldn’t do anything about the water because I was in such a hurry about my furnace.”

Largen’s family is one of 12 families who were moved out of the mobile home park Tuesday after Calvert County commissioners and state officials became aware of the residents’ living conditions. In addition to frozen pipes and no heat, Largen and other families have been living with large structural holes due to rotting throughout their trailers, broken kitchen appliances, shattered windows, exposed wires and hazardous sewer conditions.

Largen said her 1-year-old daughter has been in and out of the hospital since she was born due to the extreme mold and roach problem within her $850 a month unit.

“There’s no way of getting rid of them because the place is so infested,” Largen said.

Largen contacted Barstow teachers Saturday evening, telling them her children would likely not be in school Monday because they still had no running water to brush their teeth or shower. On Sunday, a caravan of Barstow teachers and volunteers arrived at the park to hand out space heaters, blankets and food. Linda Dement, a licensed home improvement general contractor from Huntingtown, came to unfreeze water pipes and get water to those residents who allowed her in their homes. Calvert County Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) and Terry Shannon, county administrator, arrived to tour the park and see what the living conditions were like.

“Once the county administrator and I learned of the conditions because we were invited to be on-site Sunday evening, the county began to immediately step up and become engaged,” Slaughenhoupt said in a public statement on his Facebook page. “There is in my opinion a complete failure of the state (aka The Calvert Heath Department) that occurred over many years … Clearly (again, in my opinion) two current employees of the Health Department need to be fired.”

Slaughenhoupt said in a phone interview Wednesday that after discussing the residents’ situation Monday, a special board meeting convened Tuesday to implement a plan that is currently unfolding.

“Yesterday was just day 1. This is going to continue for a while,” Slaughenhoupt said.

Of the 33 homes in the park, 12 allowed Slaughenhoupt, Shannon and Dement into their homes to inspect. The 45 people in those homes, including 21 children, Slaughenhoupt said, were relocated to the Super 8 hotel in Prince Frederick. They were fed dinner from Bob Evans restaurant and allowed to stay with their pets: five dogs and one cat.

Prior to the move, Largen said her home had been without water for eight days.

“I don’t want to live like this anymore,” Largen said.

“Conditions are just devastating,” said Dement, who returned to the Super 8 hotel Wednesday to distribute lunch to the residents. “It’s a horror story, and it’s hard to believe.”

“These folks were renting from this landowner and I would think at a minimum there should be a basic level of livability and to me this did not meet that,” Shannon said on Thursday. “After having our chief of inspections look at the facilities and the health department looking at the water and sewer conditions ... they were not meeting the minimum livable conditions.”

Mike Mona, owner of the Hallowing Point Mobile Home Park and Marina, said Wednesday that he does not believe the park will be condemned and was waiting to hear from the Calvert County Department of Community Planning and Building regarding any violations.

“The park has been there 50 years and will probably be there another 50 years,” Mona said.

Moneymaker, who has managed the park for eight years, said Wednesday he was unaware of the tenants’ current situation, and the accusations made toward him were “completely false.”

“I have the documentation, and when it comes down to it, I will stand my ground and show you that it’s wrong … there’s two sides to this story,” Moneymaker said. “There are plenty of tenants who pay their rent on time and don’t live in filth, and some of them have been there for 20 years … we take good care of them.”

Dement credited the teachers from Barstow Elementary School for directly contacting Slaughenhoupt, who went above the county and got state officials involved.

“That’s why I don’t want to move because these teachers do anything for our kids,” Largen said, expressing her fear that the park will be condemned and her family will have to relocate to a different school district. “I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

The county government announced Wednesday evening that the tenants who were moved to the Super 8 hotel will be staying there until early February, with deputies from the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office in place at the hotel and outside the mobile home park for security reasons and to prevent theft.

Slaughenhoupt said Wednesday evening that representatives from several Calvert County government agencies are working with the families to ensure their immediate needs are met. Government staff is also arranging for representatives from various local and state agencies to visit the families, help them access needed services and plan for relocation to more permanent housing, adding that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources also is involved after finding sewage leaking from tenants’ bathrooms directly into the Patuxent River, which lies adjacent to the community.

For more information on how the community can help, call the Calvert County Department of Community Resources at 410-535-1600, ext. 8803, or email Community.resources@co.cal.md.us.

snewman@somdnews.com