Postpone evictions from Midfield Mobile Home Park, says mayoral hopeful Bill Smith
'The City of Calgary made them a promise. And we, as Calgarians, need to stick by that promise'
With just over a month left until the city closes Midfield Mobile Home Park, ending a saga that has lasted more than a decade, one of this fall's mayoral candidates is reviving the issue.
After hearing heartbreaking stories from several residents, Bill Smith says he wants the city to postpone next month's eviction from the park in the 900 block of 16th Avenue N.E.
"Let's catch our breath and really think about how to properly treat these Calgarians," he said.
The city announced in 2007 that crumbling water and sewer infrastructure made it necessary to close Midfield and re-locate residents to a new plot of land on 84th Street N.E.
However, by 2014, the relocation plan was determined not to be financially viable, but Midfield would still have to close by 2017.
"Believe me, I'm shocked and appalled at how these people have been treated," said Smith, adding that the eviction deadline is arbitrary and should be postponed.
"The City of Calgary made them a promise. And we, as Calgarians, need to stick by that promise."
Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot, who is also running for mayor, says he also feels badly for the residents of Midfield Park.
"If there's some way we could relocate them, somewhere, where they could at least continue to utilize their units, and have power and water and all of these kinds of things, they might be a little less reluctant to move," he said.
"Right now, I think some of those folks feel like they're caught between a rock and a hard place."
The city offered residents a lump sum payment of $10,000, and up to $10,000 to cover the cost of moving a trailer.
Chabot says that despite his best efforts, he was unable to get the residents a better deal.
"They're not getting enough money for their unit. They may still owe money on their unit, but they've got no place to go," he said.
"I fought passionately for these folks, and I lost."
'We couldn't replace it'
Chabot says he's not surprised to hear Smith weigh in on the issue ahead of the Oct. 16 municipal vote.
"It's typical of any election. Whenever something controversial comes up, you'll see mayoralty candidates rally to the issue suddenly, even though the issue may have been going on for the last 10 years, such as Midfield," he said.
Realistically, Midfield was too poorly designed and its infrastructure too deteriorated to have been saved, Chabot says.
"All of those pipes and sewage lines were reaching end of life and we would face a catastrophic failure," he said.
"And we couldn't replace it viably because the lines ran underneath all of the units, as opposed to in the road, like we would typically do nowadays.
"That was the major problem with trying to fix the infrastructure onsite."
Tony Shwaluk and his wife, Josie, still don't know where they'll end up after spending 30 years at Midfield.
"They promised us a new park, and it's there in writing. And all of a sudden they scrapped it, because I guess, too expensive. They promised us that we can be here for as long as we want, and look what's happening now," he said.
"Our whole life's invested into this. We don't have any options."
Residents have until Sept. 30 to move out.
With files from Terri Trembath