Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mortgage Companies Take Advantage of Hurricane Katrina Victims by Vida Palmer

My name is Vida Palmer, I am a life long resident of the state of Mississippi. We are the luckier victims of Hurricane Katrina, our home still stands with just some leaks in the roof, We can stay in our home because it was not flooded and although my kids rooms leaked, and many of their possessions were lost they are happy to sleep on the couch for now until we can repair their rooms and the rest of the house. I spent the first 7 days after the storm helping victims in the Biloxi area including bringing food and water from north Jackson County to Biloxi every day. Finally to my relief after 2 months of waiting desperately, (not to mention the end of our savings account), the insurance check finally arrived yesterday. We were all so relieved and the kids were happy because things would finally get back to normal. Their rooms could be fixed and all things were good.. right?WRONG!!

My husband went to the bank to deposit the check into our account. The bank said no it must be signed by the mortgage company. So already quite agitated, because I have lived here my whole life, been through all the storms since Camille, and never once had to have the mortgage company sign for my check!! I begin the nightmare process of contacting the loan company to see what is involved? Here is what I found, they want me to send the check endorsed by us to them (via mail) and they will then sign it. So I asked ?then you will send it back here?? No they will keep the check and disperse funds to me as they see fit to repair my home. So the Mortgage and Insurance companies have worked a deal so that the money can sit in their accounts and draw interest on our money while they slowly disperse the funds to us as they see fit!! The lady supervisor of Country Wide home loans said they had to "protect their investment"????????

I asked her where Country Wide was the days after the storm when I was spending my savings account buying Lumber to secure the fallen areas of my carport and home. They weren?t around to help protect the investment then. They also weren?t around to give out water, food, or help of any kind!! Now they are around because they want to profit from our loss. By placing everyone?s insurance checks in the Mortgage companies banks they can draw large amounts of interest that belong to us.

I contacted my local bank and they said several companies were trying this, they also said most of the local loan companies were signing off on the checks. However the out of town lenders like Country Wide were holding the funds. How can this be possible, it is my insurance that I pay for? I own most of my home out right, my home is no where near a total loss, but they will keep my check?

I told the supervisor at Country Wide that I would be joining a class action suit to stop them from doing this, In the mean time I am having my house refinanced from another lender so that I can cash my hurricane check with my release of lien form, as Country Wide Mortgage will never get their dirty paws on my insurance claim money. I am saddened to think of the people who don't have the options or finances I do, as their checks sit at the mortgage company while big business collects the interest stolen from hurricane victims and hand out a little at a time to them as they see fit. How do you sleep with yourself?

Sincerely Vida Palmer Moss Point, Ms

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

By Eleanor "Cissy" Jordan ~ Coast Needs All The Help We Can Get

With all the recent talk(once again) of moving the railroad tracks “somewhere north” perhaps it is time to interject a bit of reality on this issue.

First: In 2003 MDOT spent more than $2 Million of our tax dollars to determine where the tracks should be re-located. The conclusion: There is no place north of Interstate 10 where the tracks can be moved. Too many sensitive environmental issues to even consider this move as feasible. An official of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife allowed such a move was “impossible”.

Second: Senator Trent Lott, a member of the Transportation Committee and now a chairman of a subcommittee, said publically: “The cost of moving these tracks is outrageous. I will not support moving the tracks any further north than Interstate 10.”

Third: The railroad tracks in Jackson County are on property not owned by CSX but exist by “prescriptive easement.” This means if there is any attempt to cease the use of these tracks by the railroad it requires that the land be returned to the heirs of this property. Either by direct purchase or even eminent domain, this would be an absolute legal nightmare involving hundreds of heirs of former property owners.

Fourth: The cost of moving the railroad, as estimated by the consulting firm of DMJM Harris of New Orleans, hired by Wayne Brown and MDOT, would be between $ 1.9 BILLION and $2.9 Billion. That amount of money could rebuild every school, every bridge and most of the infrastructure on the entire Coast. And it is tax dollars....our money... not coming out of the pockets of CSX, which, recently posted revenues of $2.13 BILLION!

Fifth: The plan to move the tracks is so flawed that the Jackson County Board of Supervisors in 2003 passed a resolution opposing this issue citing the reasons being” economically detrimental, interference with major transportation arteries, interference with county facilities, limiting growth and presenting a safety hazard as well as the impracticality of such a move.

Sixth: Any normal thinking person can readily understand that the railroad tracks are not isolated to the state of Mississippi but are “attached” to the rail system coming from Alabama and Louisiana. ARE these states going to move their tracks at the same time or are we making a big, extremely expensive loop to accommodate a few people?

Seventh: And perhaps the most compelling fact: Katrina caused the loss of homes to hundreds of people along the Coast. Are those of you who consider the tracks in our Coast cities an impediment to progress and a “nuisance” willing to cause the loss of hundreds of homes of people where the tracks would be located?
Shame on you if you answered yes to this question.

On the issue of safety regarding the current railroad crossings on the Coast the answer is not to relocate the tracks but to require CSX to provide adequate safety devices at each and every crossing. If CSX can post multi-million dollar annual revenues why can’t they provide adequate protection at these dangerous crossings?

Shortly before the consulting firm of DMJM Harris ceased the 2003 study I asked them what the comparative cost would be to elevate the tracks on the existing roadbed. The answer was very revealing. They had not even considered this possibility. Why?

If major cities in our nation can successfully elevate the rail system, and many without incurring a change in the character of the neighborhood, why can’t MDOT or the current planners of our future on this Coast consider this plan? We need the railroad, we need a viable east-west road to alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 90 and Pass Road and yet considering the marriage of these two systems together has been immediately dismissed by MDOT. Why?

Many who lost homes and property due to Katrina are moving north. If the contract to move the tracks was let today by the time the relocation was completed it is very possible we will have more people living North of Interstate 10 than now live South of Interstate 10. Moving the tracks north would be placing them where the population growth will occur.

Another disturbing aspect of this recent discussion is the secrecy and behind the scenes maneuvering in regard to the proposed sites for this relocation. This is a public issue, not one to be decided by a few regardless of the political or economic clout of those few. As the holder of a petition of more than 1,000 signatures( gathered within a very short period of time) of people in Jackson County who oppose the relocation of the tracks I personally feel the public should not be the victim here but an active participate. If we do not have the engineering talent within MDOT to
1. Locate the tracks down the middle of Interstate 10 as recommended by Senator Lott
2. Elevate the tracks on the existing roadbed, then we need to seek help outside the state as Wayne Brown has publically said both these proposals are not possible.

In conclusion: This is a bad idea, much like the plan to remove I-110. Relocating the railroad tracks is not a simple issue as it represents serious concerns for many people and has serious consequences, not the least of which is spending billions of our dollars unwisely at a time Coast needs all the help we can get.