U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark, has written the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeking answers to questions which the federal agency has previously ignored regarding the single lot sale of some 15,000 mobile homes and trailers warehoused here, and Ross now has a state ally in Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, according to the Hope (Ark.) Star.
Ross said his questions concerning the Jan. 29 auction have gone unanswered.
“Prior to this auction I, along with the entire Arkansas congressional delegation, sent a letter to GSA (General Services Administration) and FEMA requesting the immediate suspension of this auction until an appropriate disposal plan could be developed,” Ross wrote. “However, this request was ignored and the units sold for $27.4 million, or approximately $1,825 each.”
Ross said he wanted to know why FEMA departed from its typical sale of lots of 200, or individually.
“In comparison to the $1,825 per unit received during the recent auction, I would like to know how much these units were sold for on average when they were sold individually,” he wrote. “Given the current economic climate, I would also like to know the justification for this auction’s immediacy when it could negatively affect manufacturers and consumers in this state and potentially flood the market and collapse an important industry on which many jobs depend.”
Ross also sought the current status of the sale and whether the high bidder, which FEMA has not named, has complied with all the terms of the sale. Ross said last week that he would send the letter before considering other steps he might take, based upon the agency’s response.
Ross’ Feb. 12 letter to W. Craig Fugate, the administrator of FEMA, comes on the heels of an advisory by McDaniel that Arkansans who purchase mobile homes or travel trailers from dealers who acquired them as a result of the bulk sale should be aware of their condition and potential hazards.
“The attorney general predicts that the retail market may soon be flooded with these surplus units which have been stored by FEMA at several locations across the south since shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” McDaniel’s advisory notes.
The attorney general warned of getting something that was not necessarily a “good deal.”
“We expect that these units will be offered to the public in various venues, including the Internet, and at prices which may appear to be deeply discounted,” McDaniel said. “However, a discounted price does not necessarily mean the buyer is getting a good deal, and buyers interested in acquiring a surplus manufactured home or travel trailer need to proceed with caution.”
McDaniel warned about possible lack of maintenance to the units, mold, mildew and water damage which might have occurred, and the possibility of lingering formaldehyde fumes inside the units. He advised retail buyers to ask questions concerning the source of any unit they purchase, and warned that questions of property title, registration and state sales tax payment on the units may be unresolved.
“Proceed with caution, extreme caution, if your are tempted to respond to what appears to be an attractive offer for a travel trailer or manufactured home,” he said.
McDaniel said complaints may be filed with the Public Protection Department of the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (501) 682-2341 or (800) 482-8982, or at www.ArkansasAG.gov online.
FEMA has warehousd he units at the Hope Municipal Airport since shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.