Paperwork problem leads to power being cut at some FEMA trailers

Published 7:46 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A number of families living in the County Farm Road FEMA trailer park were forced to open their doors and seek relief this past weekend as the heat and humidity powered up and the electricity was powered down.

Rachel Bond and Anthony Pryor, among a reported 74 residents in the park of about 180 trailers that lost power, perspired while playing gin rummy in front of their open door on Sunday.

The two said they weren’t clear on the paperwork procedures they were expected to follow to keep their power on. They said they never got instructions that told them what to do about their electricity, and they’ve been in their trailer about two months.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Bond said that after they returned home Friday afternoon and found the was power off, she called Coast Electric “and they kept putting me on hold.”

Ron Barnes, marketing manager at Coast Electric Power Association, said officials with the utility. which serves 17,000 FEMA trailers in Harrison and Hancock County, including those on County Farm Road, were meeting Monday to iron out problems with the procedures for keeping power on.

Individual customers are responsible for getting the account put in their name and may be charged a deposit of up to $185.

“Why do some of them know and others don’t?” asked Barnes.

Association officials want to “make sure there is consistency from the FEMA standpoint” he said. “FEMA gives the contract to a subcontractor and in many cases they subcontract again. The bottom line is we’re caught in the middle. We’re not exactly sure when FEMA is going to stop paying for power for these individuals.”

Two other trailer parks in Gulfport also had electricity unexpectedly cut off Friday, but were turned back on the same night.

Bond said they were told by a neighbor that they first needed to get a code, which Barnes explained is a city requirement to ensure a trailer has been properly inspected and deemed safe.

“We didn’t know anything about a code,” Bond said.

Bond said she called the code office in Gulfport on Friday and “They said we have to bring all our (FEMA) papers down there before we can get a code. Then they said it was too late (Friday) and we had to wait until Monday morning to bring our paperwork down there.”

She said Sunday she had called Coast Electric several times during the weekend but “never got anybody. Every time I tried, I got the answering machine. Every time I called, I was number 16.”

Two other residents in the County Farm Road park said they understood when they moved in that they had to have utilities put in their own names and displayed a paper with telephone numbers on it for the code office and all utilities. Bond and Pryor said they never received such a piece of paper.

“The FEMA trailer paperwork that people must sign before they can move into a FEMA trailer specifies that all utilities are the responsibility of the person living in the trailer,” Barnes said.

“Even if it is not our responsibility, if it takes it, we will do door hangers (that say) ‘You are responsible for getting this in your own name,’” he said. “One way or another, we want to make sure it doesn’t continue to happen to people.”