Sandra Rugar said that as a little girl growing up in Twiggs County, she used to dream of living in the Wells Mobile Home Park in Jones County.
Now a grandmother, Rugars dream is coming to an end after 28 years. The Wells family is closing the park after operating it for more than 40 years, and Rugars family is one of many that must be gone by Dec. 31.
Its definitely frustrating, Rugar said Sunday. It was good for me. I always dreamed of living in this park. I guess I lived my dream for 28 years.
Rugar and other residents at the park said the owners decided in the fall that they would close the park because of sewer and water issues that had become too costly to fix.
Rugar said she and her husband, Ron, got a letter from a Macon attorney in October informing them they must be gone by the end of the year.
They dealt with (water and septic tank) issues for many years, she said. We had a cookout and we saw (the owner) working on the water lines for several hours. Financially, I guess they couldnt afford to do anything with it.
Rugar said shes heard all sorts of rumors as to why the park is closing, but didnt put a lot of stock in them.
However, the issue has been contentious enough that a woman who answered the phone at the parks offices Friday identified herself as a Wells family member but declined to give her name or answer any questions on the record about the park, citing various rumors and wrong information that she says have been circulating in the county. She said the park was nearly closed, with only seven or eight occupants left as of Friday.
One resident, who declined to identify herself, said she cant sell her mobile home and is being forced to move into a smaller apartment in another part of the county.
I cant sell (the home), she said. Im losing everything. The (mobile home) cant be moved. ... Where Im going is not big enough. Im downsizing my life.
The woman said shes got eight dogs shes having to give up. Shes in the process of working with Macon-area animal rescue groups to find new homes for the dogs.
Anne Brennaman, who is the founder of Macon Purrs N Paws, said shes trying to find homes for some of the dogs and cats there, but many of the animals need to be tested for such diseases or conditions as heartworm, making it difficult to place them if the tests are positive.
I really dont know what to do, Brennaman said. Id say theres a minimum of 30 cats out there. ... There was one dog waiting on the porch of an abandoned trailer, waiting for its owner to come home.
Sandra Rugar said some residents have received assistance from Mustard Seed Ministries to move out of the park and into new residences. Ministry founder Gary Hargis said his organization has helped at least six families move, and likely will help out two or three others before the end of the year. Hargis said his ministry, a nonprofit organization, takes a different approach to helping people, letting them chip in where they can and picking up the rest. He said its going to cost more than $12,000 to pay for moving, getting permits and hooking up electricity for some of the families who are moving into new residences.
He said some of the residents he has dealt with are elderly and have lived in the park for decades.
Some of them are 75 years old and have lived there for 25, 30 years, he said. They cant decide what they want to do. ... Its pretty traumatic for them.
Hargis said hes dealt with the Wells family as well during the process and said he was told it would cost in the neighborhood of $170,000 in repairs to the park.
Another Jones County resident who has stepped up to help some of the families is Robert Andrews, who owns Jones Acres Mobile Home Park. He said at least four families are moving into his park for certain, and likely another two or three families will decide to do so as well.
Andrews said hes helping out by taking care of the costs to hook up the electricity, water and sewage for the new residents, and is providing the Rugars a trailer to store some of their possessions for the time being.
That man saved us, Ron Rugar said of Andrews. Hes done a lot.
Andrews said times are tough in the mobile home park industry, which was hit with many of the same problems that the housing industry was hit with during the past few years. He said maintaining septic tanks, water lines and other aspects of his park can be very expensive.
I know profits are very, very low, Andrews said. People cant get mobile home financing. Weve gotten into the rental business because, otherwise, wed have too many vacant spaces.
Andrews said its very tough on the families having to move out, because they dont have a lot of money to begin with and there are a lot of upfront costs associated with moving.
Its been real rough on them, he said. Everything is real tight right now, and this puts a big, old burden on them.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.