Payson Police Sgt. Donny Garvin thought he was following the town's rules in selling his house in Rumsey Park, but the 12-year law enforcement veteran ended up getting evicted by his own employer.
Garvin, along with fellow officer, Sgt. Rod Mamero, have been given deadlines for moving their manufactured homes out of the park, where police personnel have been authorized to live "for park security purposes" since the late 1970s.
Garvin lives near the tennis courts, while Mamero, who joined the force in 1989, lives near Taylor Pool in Rumsey 2.
The town edict to vacate the premises came after Garvin notified the town on Jan. 16 of his intention to sell his house to Officer Reed Watson. In a memo dated March 16, Town Manager Fred Carpenter told Garvin he had until Feb. 26, 2006 "to remove your manufactured home and personal property from Rumsey Park."
Garvin, who has lived in the park for 10 years, wants to sell his home because he has purchased property to build a new home, but estimates he can only sell his old house for $50,000 if it is moved out of the park -- $20,000 less than Watson was willing to pay.
"If you put wheels on a mobile home you're done, so all that park improvement that I did -- the fence, the grass, the sprinkler system -- I can just chalk that up for a learning experience," he said.
Moving his old home to the new property is not an option because manufactured homes are not allowed. Besides, Garvin said he needs the $20,000 he will lose to start construction on his new home.
Garvin is upset about the town granting him permission in writing to sell his home in 1999 -- no subsequent agreements or policy revisions have been made since then.
"I was interested in selling my house back in 1999 and they gave me a set of priorities to sell it by," Garvin said. "Number one, I had to sell it to a town employee, first being preferably a police officer, second a parks and rec employee, and third any other town employee at all. That was the last agreement I had to go with."
Mamero has been given until April 2007 to move out. That's when the town anticipates his retirement, according to Carpenter.
And that puts Mamero in an entirely different situation, said Garvin.
"They perceive (Mamero) retiring in a couple years, so they're kind of laying off of him," he said.
The town has decided the added security provided by the two officers living in Rumsey Park does not outweigh the negatives, according to Carpenter, including the fact that some park patrons have complained that Garvin's two German shepherds bark at them. Carpenter thinks the two officers have minimal impact on park security anyway.
"Frankly I get more complaints about barking dogs and the fact that here's people that have a benefit that's not available to anybody else -- the inequitability of it," Carpenter said. "We want to free (the home sites) up for future park development or whatever; we just don't want to keep the park the way it is."
Mayor Barbara Brewer agrees that it's time to discontinue the practice of having police officers in the park.
"I think if the public was made aware that those guys are living for free in that park, the public would get up in arms," she said.
"Some people think it's unfair because I'm living there for free," he said. "In exchange for not paying property rent I provide a service there."
Garvin argued that his presence in the park not only serves as a deterrent, but he said, he may have even saved lives.
"That park is different than Green Valley Park because there's no (nearby) residents to be able to see what goes on inside Rumsey Park," he said. "You could have rapes, you could have all kinds of dope, you could have all kinds of liquor; it could just go rampant in there unless somebody goes through there to see it late at night."
At one time, the town agreed. In 1999, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind sent a memo to that effect to then-town manager Rich Underkofler.
"The nominal fee waived for rental space ... is balanced with the advantages gained," he wrote. "This program has been in place for over a decade. I feel it has proven to be extremely worthwhile, and a model for other communities."
Back then, Underkofler estimated the value of services the officers were providing for security was at least $175 per month in exchange for the rent waiver.
Garvin said the added security is still a benefit, and he's trying to document his off-duty activities since he's lived in the park. He will include that information with a list of solutions that he can live with to Carpenter.
"My first one is going to be, consider the agreement you originally gave to me," Garvin said. "I (will also) give this option to the town: the town can purchase the house. I'm not asking a ridiculous amount. It's not like I'm trying to put the screws to anybody."
Because he never signed a lease, Garvin said his legal options are limited. "With no lease, it's a 30-day contract, so they can legally tell me to get out of there in 30 days if they want to," he said.
In the meantime, if Garvin is forced to move his home in the park -- at his own expense -- he'll be left with a house, but no place to live. "So now I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard spot, because that (1999) agreement changed without me knowing it," he said.