LANCASTER – Mayor R. Rex Parris provided disgruntled tenants and defensive managers of the Desert Palms Mobile Home Park Community an opportunity at Tuesday’s council meeting to go public with their grievances.
Tenants complained to the city that they have had to endure ongoing water shut-offs and sediment-filled water, along with inconsistent utility fees from management.
A tenant by the name of Maria said that she and her husband have come home on a number of occasions to a “house that does not have running water,” while also trying to keep up with utility bills that fluctuate from $40 to $90.
“She said she is not here to ask for money – she wants justice done,” a translator for the woman told council members. “And she wants what’s right for her and husband and family.”
Another tenant discussed the frequent water shut-offs, along with experiencing dirty water once water is restored.
“What they’re asking for is their basic necessities,” the translator said. “There’s no water to bathe, no water to cook, and when the pipes turn back on the water is full of sediment. The sediment has ruined the tenants’ showers and bathrooms, and it’s ruined the washer machines that the tenants own.”
As a demonstration, she held up a bottle of water that was filled with dirty sediment – supposedly taken from a tenant’s toilet after water service had been restored.
The Desert Palms Mobile Park’s management challenged the accusations, offering documentation showing that not only are problems with the water pump being addressed in a responsible and timely manner, but that changes in the utility fees were not their doing.
The two representatives from the mobile park management, Annabelle, the regional manager, and Karen, the assistant property manager, said their meter and billing have been found to be in compliance.
“All of our meters are state-certified,” they said, “No problems have been found with billing or compliance at all. These meters are not owned by the park and have nothing to do with the [changing rates of] electric bills.”
Parris agreed that park management would not be responsible for the fluctuation in utility fees, but said that city staff would resolve the concern by requesting that utility companies perform an audit.
In response to the problems with the water pump, the managers said they recently “installed a water meter to check the flow,” and that their technician would verify this.
Not entirely satisfied with their explanation, Parris asked, “So what’s with the water problem, are you saying the tenants made all this up?”
To which the managers replied: “Our documentation shows that there is no problem with the water.”
City staff clarified the water pump issue, confirming that the pump has been replaced and that the park’s owners are working on a “secondary water system” that would allow them more water pressure, while also providing a backup to the other pump. However, staff did confirm that the water had been shut off in the past – and within the last 6-8 weeks.
Parris told staff that the tenants should be compensated for every day they had gone without water, saying he appreciates they’re fixing the problem but that still does not address what tenants have suffered in the past.
“I want us to figure out how many days these folks went without that which the law requires them to have,” he said. “And then the park management can come to some accommodation for the past wrongs – or I want you to get ahold of Neighborhood Legal Services, and ask them to come in and file a lawsuit. I do not want the citizens of this city having to take baths in that,” he said, pointing to the sediment-filled water bottle.
Mayor Parris told both sides he wanted them to stop their fighting and work together. He said the city would provide a mediator to help work out ongoing issues between both sides.
“What I want is a mediator there; I want [management] working with these tenants, I want this resolved,” Parris said. “I don’t want families taking baths in dirty water. And I want the city to verify that this is no longer happening.”
In addition, the mayor warned the park’s management to fix any problems that prevent tenants from having clean and dependable water in the future.
“You cannot take hard-working families and not give them at least the bare minimum of what it takes to thrive in this community,” he said. “What they are telling me is that in the past they weren’t getting that. It’s going to take a while to rebuild their trust, but I suggest you do it.”
About the authorJim E. Winburn is freelance reporter covering news of public interest. –
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