All the fears expressed by the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors in Poplarville, Miss., about someone purchasing former FEMA recreational park trailers and offering them for sale locally has come true, according to the Picayune (Miss.) Item.
Now their biggest concern is someone buying one of the trailers and trying to live in it. “We need people to understand they can’t be used for permanent residences,” said Anthony Hales, board president. “They do not come up to HUD standards.”
According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lead public affairs officer Jim Foster, the trailers are more than likely ones purchased through the General Services Administration’s auction website. “FEMA only sells through the GSA auction website,” said Foster, adding that the site indicates where the trailers are located. “They are sold individually or by the lots.”
Foster declined to say if FEMA was investigating the sale of the trailers at a site in nearby Nicholson, Miss., and the GSA website no longer lists any of the trailers for sale.
The owner of the trailers that are being sold in Nicholson said he purchased 50 of them through the GSA auction website and said he makes sure he tells people that the trailers are for camps or storage only and not to be lived in. “I do not want to deteriorate our community,” said Darryle Whitfield, “I tell anyone interested that these are not to live in. These are strictly for deer camps, fishing camps or storage units.”
Whitfield admits that he has had “only three people” indicate they were considering purchasing the trailers to live in.
Business had been brisk, Whitfield said, though he says he had done very little advertising and was amazed at the number of people interested in purchasing one.
“It is amazing of the number of people who want them,” said Whitfield, adding that he has had people from as far away as Virginia and Texas buying the trailers. “They’ve been from Virginia, Missouri, all over Texas,” he said, adding that several of the trailers have been sold for use along the Gulf Coast and in northern Mississippi.
Even so, the sale of the trailers has the supervisors stymied on how to prevent someone from purchasing one of them and moving it in place of a FEMA trailer without the county’s knowledge. “FEMA has questioned us several times since day one and has asked about making them permanent residences,” Hales said. “They said they would abide by our regulations.”
The county so far has refused to set a deadline for residents still living in FEMA mobile homes and travel trailers to be out of them or to be cited for living in housing that does not meet county codes. FEMA cannot force someone to move out of the travel trailers, instead having to rely on local officials to enforce zoning and code regulations.
In Pearl River County, as of July 16, there were 111 families living in FEMA housing units. Of those, 79 were in travel trailers. Harrison County has 172 total in FEMA housing, with 116 in the travel trailers, and Hancock County has 74 with 60 in the campers.
Admitting that the FEMA travel trailers within the county are not hard-wired electrically, thus making it possible that someone could try and switch the trailers and not apply for any permits, County Planning & Building director Ed Pinero said his office was taking steps to prevent someone from trying to place one of the campers in place of a FEMA trailer without the county’s knowledge.
“We are in the process of contacting FEMA so they can make us aware of when a camper has been moved (out) so someone can not move one in,” said Pinero. “It is not legal for one of these to be used as your permanent residence.”
Pinero said that the sale of the trailers could pose a problem not just for Pearl River County, located in the extreme southwest corner of the state, but for several other Mississippi counties.
“These are going to be a problem for the southern six (counties) because a lot of these are going to be sold,” said Pinero, adding that to date, no one had applied for any permits for one. “We will stay on top of this,” he said. “These travel trailers are not permanent housing and can not be used as such.”