Our View: Sleepy Bear situation should be a wake-up call | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Sleepy Bear situation should be a wake-up call

It’s been five weeks, and 15 residents of the Sleepy Bear mobile home park remain without power and water. The situation is untenable, and we think community members should be paying attention and lobbying the parties involved to find a solution.

From day one, this has been a public health and public safety emergency, and the response should have been more urgent. A complaint with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs under the state’s Mobile Home Park Act initially slowed the process as work to make repairs at Sleepy Bear were stalled while Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and the Routt County Regional Department investigated. Then it was discovered that service lines to each mobile home would need to be replaced, which could take weeks, especially when contractors are short staffed and busy.

The situation at Sleepy Bear exposes some of the divides that still exist in Steamboat Springs. We can’t help but think if this had occurred in a neighborhood near the mountain, full of multimillion-dollar homes, it wouldn’t have taken this long to fix. Sleepy Bear is a working-class neighborhood where locals who work in our community live, and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

The neighborhood is also home to members of our immigrant community, which was clear when resident Norma Ruth Ryan asked for more time to speak during last week’s council work session so that her comments could be translated into Spanish by an interpreter. As she noted, interpretation for Spanish-speaking residents shouldn’t be a one-time arrangement but rather the norm for public meetings if we truly want to be an inclusive community.

At a glance

At issue: Some residents of the Sleepy Bear neighborhood have been without power and water for five weeks.

Our View: This is a public health and public safety emergency, which deserves more urgent attention and scrutiny so that it doesn’t ever happen again to any members of our community.

Editorial Board

• Logan Molen, publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Marion Kahn, community representative

• Laraine Martin, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

It’s great that nonprofits, businesses and individuals have come forward to offer assistance over the past few weeks, but we need to do more. City and county officials, who have been working to get the situation resolved, should take this opportunity to reevaluate current ordinances and building codes to see if there are changes that can be made to ensure a more rapid deployment of resources if this should happen again.

We encourage our elected officials to get creative and try to find a way to incentivize contractors to jump in and get repairs at Sleepy Bear completed quickly. We’d also like to see resources secured to provide emergency assistance to those who might be struggling to pay for the costly electrical and plumbing upgrades that may be required. And of course, the owner of the mobile home park needs to step up and work hard to solve the issues for his tenants.

We are not in a position to place blame, because we think there’s a lot to go around, and it’s a complicated situation, but we know our neighbors are suffering. Living in darkness without water and wondering whether anyone cares because the situation is stretching from days to weeks is incredibly sad, financially and emotionally stressful, and challenging from a mental health perspective. It can be easy to look away, but we must resist that urge and do everything in our power to ensure marginalized voices are not ignored but heard.

This shouldn’t be happening in our town, and we believe Steamboat can do better. As a community, we need to continue working to identify divides that exist and then do everything we can to find ways to bridge those gaps and change systems that allow those divides to persist.

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