County inspectors hunting down FEMA trailers

Published 4:57 pm Friday, September 7, 2007

Pearl River County Building Department inspectors are in the process of locating all the remaining Federal Emergency Management Agency travel trailers in the county.

Chief Building Inspector Kirk Pichon said Tuesday that FEMA has provided the county with a list of more than 1,200 addresses that are listed as still having the travel trailers. Pichon said all the inspectors that work with his office have been taking time from other responsibilities to find these trailers and assess the situations at each residence.

One inspector, County Fire Marshal Albert Lee, traveled Thursday morning to approximately 30 locations on and around Barth Road in Poplarville that were on FEMA’s list in order to get a first-hand look at the situation with the travel trailers in the county.

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One of the first problems the inspectors face, Lee said is that while the county uses the E-911 addressing system to address each residence, the addresses are not always clearly marked. Sometimes people will not clearly mark their mailboxes, and when they do, they may not be located at the property, but rather at a grouping of mailboxes close by.

“The problem is, people need to put the addresses on the mailboxes so we can find these houses,” Lee said.

After locating a trailer, inspectors then have to determine if the trailer is still occupied, if the owner has pulled permits to rebuild or repair a home, and if any progress is being made on that construction.

Of the 30 or so homes visited Thursday morning, more than half of the travel trailers appeared to be still occupied as residences. Of those occupied residences, only five had visible signs of either repair to an existing structure or new construction. One residence had permits posted, but no construction had occurred.

Of the other occupied residences, five had other types of housing located on the property that appeared to be in good condition and occupied as well. Of those five, two lots had three travel trailers each, each trailer appearing to be occupied also.

Of the remaining occupied residences, two were located near damaged houses that showed no signs of repair, while two others did not have any other structures on the lot, and showed no signs of any type of construction. One travel trailer was located at a business site and no home construction was visible.

Four of the remaining travel trailers on the list had been traded out for full-sized mobile homes, while yet others had been removed, apparently by FEMA, and not taken off the list. Only three or four appeared to be unoccupied, or the residents said they had moved out and back into alternative housing.

Lee said the morning excursion was typical of what was being found by inspectors all over the county.

“We have found some (locations) that have the big trailers. They probably swapped those. We’ve found those where you can tell they’re working on a house. Others, you can tell they are empty,” Lee said.

In a telephone interview Friday morning, Pichon said so far he has received no instructions other than to locate all the travel trailers and report on the status of them.

“They told us to go out and find these travel trailers and see how many are occupied and how many have pulled permits and are making progress,” Pichon said.

In a telephone interview Friday morning, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said the county was doing the inspections pursuant to a request from FEMA.

“FEMA gave us a list and asked us to help out, but we don’t know where it’s going to lead. … FEMA asked the county to … see if people are building or if they (the travel trailers) are just sitting there vacant,” Lumpkin said.

Lumpkin said the county has the option of setting a deadline for residents to be out of the travel trailers, but so far, a deadline has not been set.

If a resident has a FEMA trailer that is sitting unoccupied and is ready for deactivation, they can call the FEMA deactivation number at 1-866-877-6075.