COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Evictions in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, continued this week as the United Effort Plan Trust took back houses from occupants who have refused to pay a monthly occupancy fee.
Nine families were evicted from their homes Monday and Tuesday after weeks of receiving notices of delinquency on payments to the UEP, and 10 more homes are also slated for eviction this week.
While most of the families cooperated, packing up and leaving once Mohave County Constable Michael Hoggard showed them the proper paperwork, not everyone has been willing.
One woman nearly ran over Hoggard with her vehicle, UEP consultant Isaac Wyler said.
“She’s going to spend some time in court with that one,” Wyler said.
Getting people to open the door hasn’t been easy, and Wyler and Hoggard had to bring a locksmith with them to unlock many of the doors when people refused to open up.
This isn’t work that has made them popular around town.
Wyler said he has had his tires slashed about 28 times in one month, had sugar put in his gas tank, and someone even put dish soap on his brake pads to keep them from working.
But the town is changing, he said, and he’s even had some of those same people come to him and apologize for their actions.
“So, yeah, there’s some animosity,” Wyler said. “But you know what? We’re going to make it through all of that, and we’re going to get on the other side of this.”
One reason for the change is that as the UEP moves people out of these homes, they are moving other families in. Most of them are former residents who were driven away by Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Wyler said.
Former Hildale mayor David Zitting told Wyler that because of this, things are changing and will never go back to how they were, he said.
“And he’s right, they will never go back to how it was,” Wyler said. “That’s a good thing. That’s a really good thing.”
After the UEP Trust was taken out of Jeffs’ control in 2005, those living on UEP land were asked to sign occupancy agreements and were billed $100 per month in occupancy fees to be paid to the trust.
Many have refused to pay the bill, Wyler said, and Utah 3rd District Court Judge Denise Lindberg has taken action.
Lindberg oversees the trust’s actions, Wyler said, and is tired of putting up with “freeloaders.”
Wyler said he’s been given a list of 10 more evictions to enact in Utah before the end of the week.
They don’t plan to stop, Wyler said, until everyone on UEP property is either paying or has worked with the UEP to get the title to their home.
“The intent of the trust is pretty much to privatize it,” he said, “and get everybody their own home so they don’t have to worry about getting kicked out every time somebody has a bad night. You know, if Warren (Jeffs) gets feeling bad or eats something that didn’t agree with him, six guys get kicked out and lose their families. We’re going to end all of that.”
The trust really wants to give the homes back to those who built the community, he said, and give power back to the people.
The UEP is also willing to work with residents in other ways, Wyler said.
While a $100 payment isn’t a problem for most, he said, the UEP is willing to work with those who can’t afford the payment and has done so with families in the towns.
For most, however, the size of the payment isn’t the problem, Hoggard said.
“I had one family say that if they could have the home for $1 a month, would they take it? And they said no,” he said, “because it’s the principle of the thing.”
At one house where eviction proceedings were carried out Tuesday, Hoggard and Wyler said, there was a new truck in the driveway and a pricey new ATV in the backyard.
To them, they said, it stands as evidence that the family could afford the payment but was simply refusing to pay the UEP.
The UEP and constable’s office have been posting notices for well over a month, they said, even giving the home occupants two extra weeks after posting five-day notices to pack up and move out.
Hoggard said he served court notices at each of the homes prior to the eviction notices, and most of the occupants didn’t even show up to plead their cases.
These families are aware they will be evicted, Wyler said, and usually have already moved most of their possessions out before the UEP ever comes in to take back the property.
“This is a two-story house, and they’re going to fit everything in two pickups and that trailer,” he said. “So, it’s already cleaned out. They’ve already been anticipating this.”
The evictions will continue, as there are still several hundred homes where occupants are not paying their dues to the UEP Trust.
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