Ephraim makes it clear: Council wants action, not just talk

Ephraim makes it clear: Council wants action, not just talk


Suzanne Dean




EPHRAIM—The Ephraim City Council made it clear last week that it wants action, not just talk, regarding two target properties riddled with what inspectors said were serious code violations.

Mark Huntsman, senior vice president of Sunrise Engineering of Fillmore, and Jody Hilton, an inspector for Sunrise, reported to the council on Wednesday, Oct. 5 on inspections they conducted at a 2-acre trailer court at 200 North and 200 West and the long-vacant Travel Inn at 300 N. Main Street.

Ephraim City recently signed a contract under which Sunrise is providing building inspection services and assisting with code enforcement.

Hilton said the thing that makes the 200 North trailer park different from two other parks in town is  “the extreme rundown condition.”

At the motel, there is evidence of gang activity, drug activity and vandalism, Hilton said. He described the motel, with broken windows and open rooms, as “an attractive nuisance for all people you don’t want in your community.”

Ephraim Police Chief Ron Rasmussen said city action on the trailer park and motel are just the beginning of a code enforcement effort city-wide.

“We’re going to clean up the whole town,” he said.

The Sunrise inspections on Sept. 20 culminated in a 20-page letter of findings regarding the trailer park and a one-page letter about the motel.

Perhaps the most serious concern at the trailer park was what inspectors told the council was an “eminent danger” of contamination of the water system.

Rather than pipes, many of the trailers receive water through hoses, and lots of the hoses leak. The sewer system does consist of pipes, but the pipes are close to the leaking hoses.

If a sewer pipe sprung a leak, the effluent could drip onto the hoses and get though the holes into the water supply, city staff say. Or contamination could occur within a single unit.

Since none of the units have backflow devices to prevent water from one unit from flowing into the general water system, such an incident “would affect the whole community,” Hilton told the council.

Another concern is fire danger. The building code says a mobile home must have a mobile-home-approved furnace and water heater. Since Sunrise inspectors looked at the exterior of the 200 North complex only, there is no assurance the approximately 20 trailers at the property comply, Huntsman said.

He added that he noticed lumber as one of the components of a roof of at least one unit. “There’s definitely a fire danger there,” he said.

Noting that fires in mobile home parks are often deadly, the inspectors recommended that the city fire marshal conduct an inspection within 14 days, including verifying if the city has sufficient fire hydrants close to the park to fight a fire there.

After hearing the Sunrise report, the council passed a motion directing David Strate, the property owner, to present a plan within seven business days to remediate water, sewer and electrical problems on the site.

In discussion, council members mentioned giving Strate somewhere between six and nine months to do the work outlined in the plan.

Beyond coming up with a plan for major utility repairs, the motion said Strate needed to demonstrate his intent to cooperate with the city by getting certain things done within 14 days.

That immediate list included removing RVs (under zoning, only mobile homes, not RVs are permitted), removing abandoned trailers, getting junk and unlicensed vehicles off the site, capping a sewer line coming out of one trailer that isn’t connected to anything, fixing a propane tank so it serves just one trailer and is no longer hooked up to two RVs that aren’t using it, and clearing trash from the property.

The motion said Strate also needed to give the city a roster of trailers and who owns each one so the city can work with owners of trailers not owned by Strate himself.       Regarding the motel, Hilton reported finding severe structural cracks and roof damage. “It appeared to be cost prohibitive to convert (it) to student housing or another use,” he said.

Brant Hanson, city manager, said the city is in regular contact with the current owner. Based on a recent contact, he said, the owner might be willing to demolish the building, which would save the city the cost and trouble of condemning it and demolishing it.

Based on that report from Hanson, the council took no action on the motel.