An ordinance to change how the city bills for water usage in mobile home parks took some flak this week after the owner of one mobile home park said the city did not work with the park owners to develop the ordinance.
The city is proposing to bill the mobile home park owner for water usage based on the master meter readings. Currently individual bills are sent to each mobile home.
City staff have worked since April 2001 on the ordinance, said City Administrator John Call.
"At this point the city wants to get out of the business of billing individual meters in each mobile home park," Call said. "We think it's in the best interest of the city to give one bill to the owner of the mobile home park."
Call said the reasons include:
* Distribution systems in the parks are not owned by the city.
* Access to the meters is difficult because they're located under the home.
* Meters are damaged because of exposure to the elements.
* The problems cause revenue loss to the city of about $1,000 a month.
The distribution within Storm Lake's two mobile home parks are owned and maintained by the property owner - not the City of Storm Lake.
"Leaks in these mains is another problem the city is incurring," Call said.
When the matter came to a vote at Thursday's city council meeting, council member Hector Velez said he wanted to table it until the full council was present to vote. Only members Velez, Julie Egland and Denny Vaudt were present.
"I agree with the essence of the ordinance, but I want the whole council to vote," Velez said.
Clark Fort, who owns the mobile home park north of IBP, protested the ordinance, telling the council that he was never contacted about the proposal until Monday of this week.
"When you try to find a solution, you try to bring in all the parties," he said. "We didn't know about this until Monday."
Mayor Jon Kruse said the ordinance was not "drummed up out of the blue."
"There was a considerable amount of time spent looking into this and the effect on property owners," Kruse said.
Fort said the ordinance would create problems for park owners if they had to divide the water bill among the homes.
He also said at his mobile home park a meter is located on each home and that they are maintained. He said any major leaks within the park's distribution system are fixed immediately. When he asked if there were any problems with his mobile home park, the city administrator said there was not.
"If there's someone who isn't doing it right they should be penalized," Fort said.
Call refused to say if there were problems with water bills at the other mobile home park, Vista Estates on West 9th. He only said the city does not want to bill individual mobile homes any longer.
Fort suggested the ordinance should be changed so it penalizes mobile home owners if there are continuing problems.
Council member Vaudt said he understood Fort's concerns.
"It's unfortunate we have to pass an ordinance to get people to cooperate," Vaudt said. "We're forced to treat people all the same when we don't have people cooperating fully."
Vaudt said he wanted to vote on the first reading this week to keep the ordinance on track to take effect at the same time new water rates are proposed to begin. He said it will also give Fort time to work with the city attorney to develop an alternative.
When brought up to another vote, all three council members voted in favor of it.
Mayor Kruse told Fort to work with the city attorney on ways to make the ordinance more attractive.