MARSHALL, Minn. – Residents of the Broadmoor Valley mobile home park have complained for years about frozen water pipes, clogged sewer lines, severely neglected rental homes and abandoned trailers.
But their loudest grievance has been about the roads, which are so full of potholes, cracks and ruts that park managers even banned school buses that pick up special-needs children. Now they are considering banning trash trucks as well.
“The road conditions keep us from being part of the community,” said Jesus “Chuy” Hernandez, whose family has lived in the park for 18 years. “We want our kids to be proud to say, ‘I live in the mobile home park.’ ”
The longstanding frustrations came to a head this year. Residents formed a neighborhood association, held a “Walk for Dignity” in July and complained to local and state officials about what they say is harassment by onsite managers and the park’s out-of-state owner.
Broadmoor Valley’s managers and owner say they are trying to improve Marshall’s lone trailer park, which provides affordable housing in a city where it is scarce. Roughly seven in 10 residents living in the park’s 78 occupied units are Hispanic, along with a few Karen families.
Paul Schierholz, the Colorado Springs, Colo., owner of the park, says he fixes dilapidated homes as quickly as he can, and he’s looking at ways to repair the road. He warns that residents must obey the park’s rules, though, or face the consequences.
“We’re just trying to provide reasonable, affordable housing,” he said.
Health and safety hazards
The residents’ complaints go back years.
Susan Verschelde wrote park management in April 2014, ticking off a litany of “safety issues” in the home she’d been renting since 2008 — broken windows, frozen and burst pipes and an electrical short that sent sparks flying from a light fixture. The manager responded a month later, writing that “the owner” had directed him to evict her.
Verschelde sued. A Lyon County judge later found that one of her windows broke in a hailstorm three years earlier and a second one broke in a 2014 windstorm. The owner covered each with plastic and/or boards, but made no repairs. The judge noted that Verschelde had to turn off a breaker to her children’s bedroom and bathroom because of the dangerous arcing in a light fixture.
“In December 2013, the pipes in the residence froze and remained frozen until the spring when pipes burst. Since that time, there has been little or no water pressure in the sink in the master bathroom,” the judge found, citing other hazards, including a leaky roof that led to moldy carpeting. She ordered the park’s owner to repair the home and pay $1,000 in damages. She also ordered the rent cut to $450 a month from $650 until the repairs were made.
Similar problems continued elsewhere in the park.
Orville Johns worked as a property manager for Broadmoor Valley until water problems led him to quit in 2017. He said the main water valve leading into the park was broken underground, adding that Schierholz, wouldn’t pay to excavate it. As a result, Johns said, “We would work on pipes with the water running.” A co-worker got sick and quit, he said. Johns said he also quit rather than face another year of frozen pipes.
Lauren Johnson, Schierholz’s assistant in Colorado Springs, said she quit in frustration last February over frozen water pipes in the rental home of Willie Glosson and Jasmine Brown. Johnson said in a letter to the residents association that Brown had called her in January complaining she had no water. It was the second home in a week to report frozen pipes, Johnson said.
In an interview, Johnson said calls to local plumbers went unanswered because Schierholz had a reputation for slow payment or nonpayment. She said she reported the problem anonymously to the city, which responded the next day with an e-mail to park management saying it must be fixed.
Johnson said that she suggested moving the couple to a different unit, but Schierholz refused, prompting her to quit.
Schierholz is affiliated with several mortgage and real estate companies in Colorado and is an officer in Schierholz and Associates, which does business as Broadmoor Valley. He said it was Johnson’s job — not his — to hire contractors, and disputed the notion that the park doesn’t pay its bills.
After going 45 days without water, Glosson and Brown — who had two young children in the home — filed “emergency” lawsuits in Lyon County. A maintenance worker let them move to another trailer over Schierholz’s objections, they said. They eventually moved away.
Katie Alvarez, who worked with her husband as an onsite caretaker until last week, said Schierholz fired her and her husband because “he wants us to do our job half-assed and it’s not happening, and he’s mad about it.
“He does not care about this property. We have told him time and time again, sell it, give it to someone who cares. He won’t do it. He just wants the money.”
Schierholz declined to comment on the Alvarezes, citing “pending legal action.”
Enter the advocates
Earlier this year, Misty Butler, a volunteer with Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, a Latino civil rights organization, helped organize the Broadmoor Valley Residents Association, a group that says it represents 85 percent of the park’s occupied units, about half of which are rentals.
In August, resident Susy Martinez sued Schierholz, alleging that he had charged her 56 percent interest on a $7,000 mortgage. She said she paid $14,000 over 44 months on her home, which is valued at $20,300, and demanded repayment of nearly $5,000.
“They didn’t want to give me my title,” Martinez said. She got her title in a settlement, but no money.
Schierholz said Martinez had no written contract, and that he settled after reviewing her payment history.
Butler’s involvement rankled Schierholz, and he warned her in a recent letter against trespassing. “It appears that she and this organization in Minneapolis are trying to raise money for their organization. They’ve been spreading lies,” he said. “Any implication that we are not following the law is a falsehood.”
In a letter to Butler, City Attorney Dennis Simpson wrote that Schierholz can’t stop the organizing activities, but he may place reasonable limits on time, place and manner of expression.
Members of the residents’ association say management is taking a hard line.
“There’s been a lot of retaliation and a lot of scaring people regarding the residents’ association,” said Hernandez, the association’s president. “They called the police on me to accuse me of trespassing on some of the unoccupied homes and taking pictures and videos, which I never did.”
Park rules say any criminal violations could result in eviction. Hernandez notes that he was never charged.
Christina Izquierdo, association secretary, worries that she’s a target for park management. It billed her $1,680 for the use of two empty lots in September, when the association held a community cleanup drive and barbecue. She said the Alvarezes verbally approved the use of the lots and never mentioned a fee. Katie Alvarez denied that, and Schierholz said in a recent interview that Izquierdo must pay.
“There are certain people we threatened to evict because they are breaking the rules,” he said.
The association, meanwhile, has filed a complaint with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office citing nearly a dozen problems, including poor road maintenance, improper rental agreements, unreasonable rules, retaliatory eviction threats and failing to have a responsible caretaker available at all times. The complaint is pending.
Southwest Health and Human Services in Slayton contracts with the Minnesota Department of Health to regulate mobile home parks in the region. Jason Kloss, environmental health manager, said the firm has been focusing more on Broadmoor Valley since July and that management has responded by making some repairs. But he said more must be done.
“When you go this long without doing capital improvements on it, you’re reaching the end of the life span of the manufactured home park,” Kloss said.
As for the roads, Kloss said the best solution would be to repair them so that they can bear the weight of larger vehicles, but he can’t order that because the roads are privately owned.
Schierholz said it would cost $1 million to resurface the roads. “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “We fill the potholes as they come up.”