If there once was an open-door policy to talk to federal officials at Forest Glen, those days are over.
Residents who used to freely drop by the trailer used by the Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency say they now find the doors bolted, even though officials are behind them. The officials are working to relocate residents of the development at the Town of Niagara border and the I-190, where health-threatening chemicals were discovered.
Rose F. Douglas of Lisa Lane said doors are locked even during daylight hours. Mrs. Douglas said she had to telephone the trailer and a representative took some papers from behind the door.
"They say it's to ensure privacy," she continued. "I think it's to protect Larry (Kitts)." Kitts, who works for subcontractor O.R. Colan, is negotiating directly with residents who are leaving the neighborhood.
Trisha Slusser of Lisa Lane confirmed the lockout.
"It's been locked all week," she said. "I phoned the trailer and (was told) to come on over and I did. They come to the door and ask who is it. There's secrecy real bad. Nobody gets in without an invitation."
Kitts responded: "What we've got is one door in the rear that's locked. That's where we meet with people."
"This is a very personal and private time for each one of the residents and they have to appreciate that," said Michael J. Basile of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. "Maybe (FEMA) made the decision because they don't want people walking in and out while they're making offers."
FEMA began offering buyouts June 7.
As of last Wednesday, four families had accepted buyout offers and 13 others were mulling their options, officials said. At that time, 36 offers were yet to be made.
Kitts declined to give an update at the end of the week and Basile was unavailable to comment.
A source said she was told privately by Kitts that about 30 offers had been made by Thursday.
Basile said there is no timetable for when offers will be made. Appointments are made when packages arrive from the FEMA national office in Washington. Residents have the option of hearing the details at their home or coming by the trailer. Neither Mrs. Douglas nor the Slusser family has received an offer.
Mrs. Douglas said she is troubled by another part of the procedure.
"I know the first thing they hand you is a 90-day eviction letter, but people are refusing to sign it," she said.
Mrs. Douglas said she believes the intent of the letter is to encourage people to move off the premises once an arrangement had been made.
Kitts said that was "absolutely not true." He said the letter gives residents a minimum of 90 days to relocate and to conclude other business after a deal is closed. Kitts said no maximum had been reached at this time.
"We'll give them additional time if needed," he said.