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Judge gives Duroville a deadline for cleanup

Trailer park must meet codes by Aug. 22 or risk being shut down.

August 05, 2008|David Kelly | Times Staff Writer

Saying there needs to be "an endgame" to the ongoing problems surrounding Duroville, a federal judge set a trial date Monday that could determine whether the sprawling trailer park in Thermal remains open.

Judge Stephen Larson, who has handled the case since October 2007, expressed frustration with the bickering and lack of communication among the lawyers and park managers involved. He said there was a "crisis of confidence" and that critical paperwork either had not been shared or had not been completed.

"I met with the U.S. Marshals office this morning, and there are contingency plans in place that I don't want to exercise," he said.

Those plans would entail shutting down the park, home to between 4,000 and 6,000 farmworkers, a move local officials say would wreak havoc on Riverside County as it tried to house the workers.

Larson, who shares that concern, has tried to resolve the problems without a trial by appointing an outside receiver and property manager to repair the dilapidated Desert Mobile Home Park, known as Duroville, which is on the Torres Martinez Indian reservation.

Park owner Harvey Duro is a member of the tribe.

The U.S. attorney's office has called for the trailer park's closure, saying that it represents an imminent threat to tenants.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Leon Weidman renewed that call Monday, telling Larson the situation "is going in absolutely the wrong direction."

But Mark Adams, the park receiver, said a $3-million loan from a consortium of banks had just been approved for Duroville that would cover all court-ordered repairs.

He also pointed to progress in cleaning up sewage ponds, reducing the number of wild dogs, doing major electrical repairs, improving parking and trying to evict several car dealerships on the property.

Larson gave park managers until Aug. 22 to show they are complying with conditions he set in April to bring the park up to building codes.

If not, he said, the government is entitled to a trial, which he tentatively set for Dec. 16.

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david.kelly@latimes.com

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