Sleepy Bear residents have now been without electricity, water for 3 weeks as process slowly moves forward

The Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park has been without power for three weeks after a fire broke out in June. (Photo John F. Russell)
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park resident Amie Shoemaker considers herself one of the lucky ones. She’s one of the few with resources to help her wait out the continuing period without electricity or water that her mobile home community is facing.

Still, Shoemaker’s life has been turned upside down the past three weeks. While she, her boyfriend and three children are able to stay with a friend, she still has to return to Sleepy Bear multiple times per day to let out her three dogs. On multiple occasions, Shoemaker has returned to find the dogs have urinated on the carpet, and she was left scrubbing dog urine out of the carpet in the dark.

“It’s just taking such a mental toll on people,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker’s home is one of 15 at Sleepy Bear on the west side of Steamboat Springs that has been without power for three weeks, which is likely to continue for at least another week, after an electrical incident sparked a fire at the park. Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Chuck Cerasoli said a maintenance worker attempting to fix a water leak mistakenly cut an electrical line that feeds electricity to several different mobile homes in the area. While the maintenance worker was attempting to repair the line, two fires broke out at separate homes.

Crews start the excavation process Wednesday afternoon inside the Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park on Steamboat’s west side. (Courtesy photo)

Residents have since been without power or water because the Routt County Building Department and fire officials had to complete an investigation into what happened, which took weeks to conduct.

“Three weeks is a long time to go without power, and we feel horrible for the residents,” Steamboat Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson said in a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting Tuesday. “We know they’re going through some tough times.”

The investigations were wrapped up this week, but they determined service lines running to each mobile home will need to be replaced, a process that will likely take weeks, Leeson said. The county began excavating in preparation to install new lines Wednesday afternoon, according to resident Norma Ruth Ryan.

“We don’t know what type of damage could have been done to the other 13 homes that didn’t burn down,” Routt County Building Official Todd Carr said. “We need to look at any other unsafe issues in the mobile homes.”

Further complicating the issue, as some plots of land within the park are individually owned and others are rented, residents are technically responsible for hiring their own contractors to inspect the homes. Carr said, however, the county would waive fees for residents and help them find contractors. While the county is low on resources, it is seeking help from contractors and electricians in the community, he said. If upgrades are needed, Carr said the Colorado Department of Local Affairs also has funding available to help pay for upgrades.

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs has also launched an investigation after at least one resident filed a complaint alleging negligence of the property owner, according to Brett McPherson, department spokesperson.

McPherson said he could not elaborate on the complaint’s specifics while the department is investigating but said the Mobile Home Park Act holds a landlord responsible for damage costs or reimbursing impacted tenants if the landlord or their agent damaged a park electrical line.

Thomas Morgan, the park’s owner, said he did not agree with the accusations in the complaint.

“There have been a lot of accusations and a lot of rumors, and I’ve told people they can call me,” Morgan said in an interview with Steamboat Pilot & Today in June. “This whole thing about us not maintaining or not keeping things up is not true.”

While the city and county offered temporary housing at hotels to residents, many declined because it was too difficult or impossible to leave behind pets, belongings and their sense of community.

“You have people trying to work within the stress of not having their home to be a home,” Shoemaker said. “I’ve been beyond grateful that I have the community that I have and that our neighbors have had a chance to come together and get to know each other.”

Shoemaker said while she is appreciative of rent being temporarily waived for residents without power, the extra money in her bank account has not been enough to outweigh the stress of the situation.

“There’s so much stress of kids trying to keep their morale up,” Shoemaker said. “This just is ridiculous, and it just shouldn’t be happening this way.”

While residents said the city, county and local businesses have been helpful, most said the help still does not meet the burden of what residents actually need.

“No one, not us and not me and not an individual donor and not a restaurant can afford to provide support for us like this all day, every day,” said Ruth Ryan, who spoke in front of Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday. “We know this, so we cut corners and meals and expectations.”

Residents are still in need of supplies, such as coolers with ice, prepackaged snacks and gift cards for grocery and hardware store purchases.

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