Scrutiny of one city-owned trailer is leading to a change in procedure and possible additional costs for Mobile.
The inquiry into proper use of trailers for business use began when then-Mayor Sam Jones and members of his staff tried to find a way to give one of the city’s trailers to the Plateau Community to serve as a welcome center for Africatown. The trailer was used as part of Precinct 5’s station while the permanent building was being built.
However, problems plagued the situation before it even made it to the council.
Jones attempted to push through the modular home issue before he left office, but was unable to accomplish his goal.
The Jones administration cleared one hurdle by identifying the funding source for the trailer, which was drug forfeiture money. But since it was purchased with law enforcement funds, the trailer needed to be used for law enforcement purposes.
Although the first hurdle was cleared, after the previous administration left a second hurdle stalled a vote on the lease agreement during the Nov. 5 council meeting.
Council attorney Jim Rossler and city attorney Flo Kessler asked the council to hold off voting on the lease because a state law prevents the use of a residential trailer being used for business.
“I looked at the state regulations and talked to the guy in Montgomery in charge of this and he confirmed if a manufactured home was designed to serve as a residence then it must meet (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) standards. If a modular building is for commercial use, then it must met the International Building Code standards,” Rossler said. “It appears the trailer the city is attempting to give Plateau is built to HUD standards.
“I asked the person in Montgomery if a HUD trailer could be converted to meet the International Building Code standard and he said no. He said there is no way for that to be done.”
Rossler and Kessler asked the council to give them two weeks to look into every aspect of the issue. However, during the Nov. 19 City Council meeting, the message didn’t change.
City Attorney Ricardo Woods said the used trailer could not be used at Plateau.
“Giving the trailer cannot be done,” he said. “As Mr. Rossler said earlier, the trailer cannot be used as it is and it shouldn’t be given from a liability issue.
“If we enter into a lease, then it will be illegal. So anything that occurs there can go back directly to the city.”
Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the administration would look for a new trailer to provide to the community. Previously, the council approved spending $22,000 to repair the used trailer. That money will now be put toward the cost of a new trailer.
The administration is also compiling a list of trailers used by the city for business operations. That list will show which trailers are being used illegally. Those trailers will have to be removed.
Councilman Levon Manzie, who represents the Plateau area, said he wants a solution to give to the residents in the area.
“We need to have something I can go back to the people with,” he said. “I need to be able to tell them what we are going to do because we promised them a trailer and now we can’t use that trailer.”
Councilman Fred Richardson said the city should add an ordinance that would make it illegal in the city to use HUD trailer for a business.
Rossler said the city abides by state law and therefore shouldn’t have to add any new rules.