THERMAL (AP) — Local officials looking to move migrant farm workers from a squalid encampment of trailers on tribal land say they need another $12 million to complete the relocation, but the state says a lapsed deadline means that money now belongs to all of California, newspapers reported Saturday.
California has rescinded redevelopment funding that Riverside County officials had long planned to use for the purchase of 181 new mobile homes in a new area for the remaining 1,500 residents who live without paved streets or hot water in Desert Mobile Home Park, more commonly called Duroville, the Desert Sun and Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
Riverside County officials believed they would have the $12 million to buy the dwellings in the considerably safer and cleaner Mountain View Estates mobile home park in the same area near Thermal. But state officials said because the mobile home contracts weren't actually finalized until January, about six months after the dissolution of all the local redevelopment agencies in the state, the money reverts to California.
H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state's Department of Finance said the dissolution and May deadline doesn't allow for the money to be released.
"Based upon the law, which says no contract can be entered into, we denied it," Palmer told the Press-Enterprise.
County Supervisor John Benoit called the decision "hasty" and says without the additional funds, Duroville residents will be stuck in dangerously unsuitable conditions.
"It just cries out for justice to be done," Benoit said. "And that is to allow us to finish."
County officials appealed the decision in a letter to the state this week, saying they hoped to get a response within two weeks and expected a positive outcome.
"I think the state will take the high road on this," John Aguilar, a deputy director of housing for the county, told the Desert-Sun.
The encampment in the Coachella Valley 130 miles southeast of Los Angeles has been the subject of legal and bureaucratic battles for years.
Its nickname comes from Harvey Duro, the park's owner and a member of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, who opened 40 acres of his land to farmworkers in 1997 because of a shortage of affordable housing in the area.
Because the park is on tribal land, it is not subject to local and state health and safety codes.