Water rates cut for residents of mobile home park

Finally, a little relief.

More than 20 residents of the Holmes Harbor Mobile Home Park will pay lower water rates.

For years, residents of the Freeland neighborhood were paying rates based on non-residential uses. And that’s the problem.

“This is not a commercial property. It’s a trailer park,” said 65-year-old resident Gwen Harrell. “Most of the people that live here are retired and live on fixed incomes. We use less water on average.”

Freeland Water and Sewer District commissioners recently approved a resolution to reclassify mobile home parks as residential multi-family properties. Now, base rates and bi-monthly consumption costs will decrease for the 19-unit mobile home park.

The Holmes Harbor Mobile Home Park had been categorized as a commercial property. As such, it was charged one base rate of $62.50. Now, residents will pay a $25 per unit base rate.

Officials said it was a simple fix that was long overdue.

“It only needed that one change,” said District Commissioner Marilynn Abrahamson.

Another change followed the reclassification. Consumption rates will decrease for the mobile home residents, too. Rather than the total usage being charged under one meter, each of the 19 units will be charged based on separate meters.

Previously, the entire mobile park property was assessed as a single unit, and under that category, its consumption exceeded a 1,000-cubic-foot limit. Now that each mobile home will be charged separately, it will likely be well under what is called an equivalent residential unit threshold, and pay a lower consumption rate of $1.35 per 100 cubic feet.

Abrahamson estimated the bi-monthly bill will be about $37, a decrease of about $5.

“That is a significant cost-saving to the ratepayer,” Abrahamson said.

Residents’ complaints went nowhere until the water and sewer board changed hands in the November election. After more than two years of complaints, they found a willing listener in the recently-elected Abrahamson.

“We couldn’t get anyone to listen to us before,” Harrell said.

“It was very nice. It was one of those things that she promised.”

Base rates fluctuated across the district. A seven-unit complex paid $62.50 in base rates, while an eight-unit complex paid $125.

The reclassification of those properties and the mobile home park makes it more equitable, Abrahamson said.

“My intention was to provide some relief to the apparent overcharging to the multi-family units, but it became apparent that they were being charged differently,” she said. “There has been no consistency in the rates whatsoever.”

Not everyone will pay less, however.

Smaller multi-family complexes may pay more. A proposed rate worksheet shows a seven-unit complex will pay $112.50 more in base rates and $11.50 less in consumption, per bill. An eight-unit complex will pay $75 more per bill in base rates, and $11.50 less in consumption.

The Holmes Harbor Mobile Home Park saw the biggest drop. It paid more than $700 per month in base rates and $390 in usage, and will save about $425 per bill.

“The more units there are, the more impact it has one way or the other,” Abrahamson said.

Inconsistent fees drew the vocal ire of one resident at recent commissioners’ meetings.

Keith Tester, who has lived at the mobile home park for more than a year, asked officials to cancel their contract with their accounting firm after the rate discrepancies were revealed.

“It’s not just about the rates, it’s about the people formulating the bills. They’ve been making up their own rules,” Tester said. “This is just so grossly mismanaged, all this accounting.”

The water and sewer district will lose about $3,800 per year in revenue from the rate changes. More than $3,100 of that total is from the Holmes Harbor Mobile Home Court alone.

For the mobile home residents, the rate changes took effect this year for the January-February bill.

For other multi-family unit residents, the district commissioners are considering delaying the rate adjustments to the next billing cycle.

Commissioners are also considering crediting the mobile home residents for the  high rates of the past few years.

The next water and sewer district board meeting is March 12.

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