RITA — Another coal camp in Logan County is facing extinction and leaving more than 30 families without a home. Residents of Rita were given notice this week that their rental agreements would be terminated on October 1 and they were to make plans to remove themselves and their belongings from property.
In the lease termination notice sent to residents, DB Land LLC stated that they had decided to use the property for commercial development purposes.
Most of the residents were born and raised in the camp. Many of them are elderly or disabled and with low income.
“As long as the coal was going, we were okay,” said Rita resident Russell Spears. “Nobody ever did any maintenance or anything, but they made us sign a contract in order to stay in our houses that we would pay $200 a month and do all maintenance. We signed a paper that we were responsible if anybody got hurt or anything. They gave us an option to tear down the houses and put in a trailer with our own sewage and everything.”
Many residents did tear down the houses and set up mobile homes and even modular homes.
Spears said that rent was collected by a former owner’s son who reportedly had a drug addiction.
“He was giving out lifetime leases and telling some that they were buying their property and all they had was their rent receipt,” said Spears. “He really pulled that off. It went like for five years and we never heard from them. Then their coal ran out and it was sold to this bunch.”
Spears said the owner is DB Land LLC located in Dodge City, Kan.
“Well they found out that the coal wasn’t there and what was there was underground and it would cost them too much to mine,” said Spears. “That’s when they noticed this little piece of property. When they bought this land, they didn’t even know they owned this community. They thought they only bought the coal.”
Spears said the representative sent by DB Land LLC, Mike Cline, initially told residents that they would be able to purchase their lots.
“Well, the main man was supposed to come in and talk to us. He drives up in his Cadillac with his surveyor and they sit behind the church for a few minutes and then he left,” said Spears. “I got a hold of Mike Cline and he tells me that they have changed their mind and they are not going to sell to us and they are going to make us all leave.”
Spears said the land company has plans to put a motel and convenience store in the area, catering to the Hatfield-McCoy trail riders.
“They told me that if I wasn’t out of here in three months they would take equipment and move our stuff,” said Spears. “My trailer was purchased by the Red Cross for $200 for me when my house burnt in 1978. If I move it there won’t be anything left of it.”
Residents who were searching for property loans a week or so ago to purchase the land they were renting are now searching another property to rent.
“There’s no where to rent to put a trailer,” said Spears.
Spears said Cline told him that homes or trailers left on the property would be destroyed.