The future is uncertain for residents of a mobile home park whose owner is losing his license and trying to sell the park, setting up their potential eviction.

“It’s very vague for us all,” said Stella Trahan, who has lived in the Meadowbrook Trailer Park in Richmond since August.

The state’s Manufactured Housing Board took the rare step Wednesday of revoking Russ Edwards’ license to operate the park. The board’s executive director, Bob LeClair, said no park owner’s license has been suspended or revoked since he started in his job in 2000.

Edwards intends to sell the Meadowbrook Trailer Park to Double Eagle Parks, a company with 15 parks in central Maine. The deal could close as soon as next week. Double Eagle Parks owner Rick Breton said the improvements needed to relicense the park will take about 30 days and probably will force the tenants out of their homes.

A group of tenants, newly incorporated under the name Water’s Edge at Richmond, will try to block the sale and buy the park to run it as a co-op.

The tenants welcomed the Manufactured Housing Board’s unanimous decision Wednesday to revoke Edwards’ license. Board members chastised Edwards for his poor management of the park, stretching back to the early 1990s and culminating this spring in health and safety violations that led to the hearing.

Theresa Desfosses, who represents mobile home builders on the board, made the motion to take Edwards’ license and fine him $1,500, the maximum penalty, for each of three violations: a vacant trailer that’s unsecured, a broken septic pumping station that had overflowing sewage, and his failure to provide potable water for residents after the Richmond Utilities District shut off the tap for fear the sewage would contaminate the town’s water supply.

“I’m totally embarrassed that you’re a member, that you’re a part of this industry at all,” she said. “You would let people live in your community without water, with raw sewage, no matter whose problem it is.”

The vacant trailer is still unsecured, but tenants arranged for repairs to the pumping station and a broken water main two weeks ago. Residents were evicted for about 24 hours because of the lack of water.

Edwards admitted to the violations but said he’s not to blame.

He said his only defense was that John Wilson, a resident and former park manager, withheld tenants’ rent payments so he could not afford the park’s upkeep.

“I know that legally, technically, I’m responsible,” Edwards told the board at the end of the hearing. “But I also hope I’m in a practical world where people can understand there are things that are fiscally impossible.”

Edwards said afterward that the board seemed narrowly focused on regulations rather than the real-world circumstances that prevented him from fixing problems in Meadowbrook.

Wilson said it was frustrating to listen to Edwards’ accusations without having the opportunity to respond during the hearing, but he felt vindicated by testimony that problems date back to long before he arrived last year.

LeClair, the board’s executive director, testified that the trailer park has failed every inspection since Edwards became the owner. Starting in 1990, similar violations appeared again and again – nuisances like trash on the ground and serious hazards like unprotected electrical conductors. LeClair said it’s typical for parks to show improvement on successive inspections under the same ownership, but that didn’t happen at Meadowbrook.

LeClair said tenants shouldnt have to worry about health and safety hazards or whether they will have water to drink or use for cooking and bathing.

“The history of this park, the current condition of this park, I would recommend to the board that their license be revoked,” he said. “Close the park right down.”

Edwards also faces potential penalties from the Department of Environmental Protection because the leaking sewage flowed into Mill Brook and contaminated it with E. coli.

Edwards represented himself at the hearing. His only other witness was Breton, who testified about his plans for the park.

Breton said his company, Colonial Pines LLC, is under contract to buy the park from Edwards and scheduled to complete the deal May 16. Breton said his company would pay Edwards’ past due utilities bill, mortgage and liens against the property as part of the purchase.

Breton said he would apply immediately for a license to operate the park, but it would take about a month to correct violations and bring all the homes up to code, so the tenants would have to move out in the meantime.

He said he took over management of the park Monday and began grading the dirt roads to fill in deep potholes. He said he plans to put down concrete slabs on all 39 lots on the property, new electrical lines and panels, and new landscaping and trees. He also plans to renovate the interiors of the homes.

“It’s a mess,” Breton said. “Bad management, bad ownership, whatever you guys want to call it. But it’s a great town for manufactured housing.”

LeClair said he won’t consider an application for a new license for the park until he sees an engineering study showing that all of the infrastructure can support 39 homes.

Manufactured Housing Board members expressed concern about the potential for evictions and wondered how they could prevent them, but concluded that it’s outside their realm of responsibility.

Stella Trahan said moving would be a great hardship for her. She moved to Richmond to care for her mother, who has Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

Trahan is an officer of Water’s Edge at Richmond, and said she’s still hopeful that the tenants group can buy the park.

“I believe that people take care of things they own better than things that they don’t,” she said.

Wilson said the group is working with a lawyer to file an injunction in Sagadahoc County to block the sale to Breton’s company. It also has sought help from the Cooperative Development Institute, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that has helped tenants of mobile home parks around New England buy their parks to run as cooperatives.

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan