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Street Talk

Golden Wing Guys Are Mum In Meeting

Adel is a Water Valley sized town in south central Georgia. Adel, like the Valley, was started as a railroad town. Last Sunday a tornado went through Adel, hit the Sunshine Acres Trailer Park and killed seven people. The same day in Albany, Georgia the Big Pine Estates trailer park was hit by a F2 tornado. Three people died. The recent outbreak of tornadoes, including the one that hit Hattiesburg, killed 20 people across the South. Half of the deaths were in trailer parks. That’s not anything new, unfortunately.

Decades ago I lived in Oklahoma – tornado country. It was a spring Saturday morning and I was working as a technician at the local Cadillac GMC dealership. The sky turned violent green and baseball size hail came in like a rolling barrage of a thousand shotgun blasts. The only other person in the shop was my colleague Marvin, a hard as nails Choctaw mechanic. We jumped under the alignment pit rack and huddled beneath a dirty Z71 pickup. Marvin yelled in my ear, “Mick we’re gonna die!” I was thinking to myself, “Marvin this ain’t the right time for your Indian mojo good day to die routine.” Just then I had a Native Americanesque vision for myself; Marvin and me found dead in a very compromising mangled metal entwined Choctaw-Cajun death embrace. I liked him, but not that much. 

The tornado picked up and skipped, as they are known to do, went to the next town of Bokchito and tumbled a number of trailers, killing three people.

Last Monday in Coffeeville when board of supervisors’ president Cayce Washington picked up an eight-page publication by Mississippi State concerning trailer issues (see the front page photo) and commented on how trailers are not storm safe, I thought of Marvin and my near cyclonic happy hunting grounds ride. 

Cayce pointed out a tornado can kill you in a regular house as well as in a trailer. That’s true, but it is the safety difference between flying a commercial jet and jumping off a cliff with a wing suit. I’ll strongly suggest you read the MSU report, regarding zoning, safety, density, infrastructure, state laws, and proximity to cities, historic districts, and historic neighborhoods. You’ll see this proposed 100 plus trailer project goes against the guidelines and state norms. Google “mscat msstate manufactured homes” and it’ll pop up.

At this supervisors meeting in Coffeeville, the first item on the agenda was the land use or lack thereof in the county. Nineteen folks were on the speaker’s list – the input lasted two and half-hours. Speakers were very passionate and determined that they were against the trailer park. Most voiced concerns with the issues of high-density housing and sheer numbers of trailers in such close proximity to Main Street and historic neighborhoods. 

Nobody who spoke was for it. But somebody could have, because three of the four Oxonian guys behind this were there also. Though nobody knew because they sat on the back row in a corner and did not say a word or speak up for 150 minutes. Nope, not a peep. Now on face value I’m impressed they found Coffeeville, I would bet it was their first trip. Oxford guys usually don’t venture that far into Yalobusha. It was only after they left that someone figured it was Turner Barnes, Hayden Alexander, and Josh Matthews. Doctor Andrew Ross was not there and presumably had patients back in Oxford. The Golden Wing guys. Not making their presence known at all.

Now before you prejudge the men of Golden Wing and think they are spineless, it was a bit tense in the courtroom. There were a lot of people there and had it been not a workday during business hours, many more. I’m sure they knew they were not popular, but they are young able-bodied men and most of the crowd was up in years, so I can’t imagine they felt physically threatened. But then again I can’t imagine why they did not speak up about their project. If you feel like you are doing the right thing or a good thing, speak up and have your say. People might not agree with you, but at least they’ll give you a grudging respect. Okay, so maybe they are betting on a poorer America, well, at least not for themselves. Just own it. My opinion as to why they did not speak up is because what they plan on doing is indefensible. 

The indefensible aspects of the proposed trailer park are many. Not only the safety aspects, but also the trailer park business practices are exploitative to those who live there. The owners of the dirt have their tenants in bind. Unless people have the finances to buy land (most of the trailers in this county are like that and that’s fine, except in tornados), the park owners have you in a bind, get sideways with them and you’re out, moving a trailer cost several thousand dollars.

The trailer concept in general is depreciative. Unlike houses that are essentially unmovable, trailers are moveable though not easily. They’re on wheels and all things on wheels depreciate rapidly. That’s an important distinction in the value in a community. How valuable or quickly deprecating is the housing stock. The proximity of a greatly expanded trailer park and the general ills that usually come with that, will depreciate substantially the surrounding established neighborhoods. Depreciation drops of 10 to 20 percent quickly realized. That would be an easy half a million in instant deprecation for nearby residential and commercial properties. It is serious business when you take tens of thousands of dollars from the pockets of several dozen long established citizens. Already the mere threat of this trailer park has stopped cold a 300 thousand dollar renovation project in the Blount-McLarty neighborhood.

What I heard at the supervisors meeting is that these Oxford guys now have “skin in the game” based on their purchase of land. That’s an investing term. I don’t think the mere purchase of flood plain farmland and a mercenary desire to convert that to many acres of low value high density housing, especially by four out of town guys, gives them a lot of skin. 

Nor do they have the right to significantly damage existing value and thereby take money from the pockets of hard working Vallians. Call me crazy, but this should be stopped. Please let your elected officials know your opinion on this. I’ve yet to talk to a Vallian who was for it. Nobody is fence sitting on this. 

You’d hope the county and city this time would be like the cops, protecting and serving.

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