Concerns about a mobile home park that was without water for approximately five days took over the first half of a regularly scheduled Boulder City Council study session last night. KGNU’s Roz Brown says it’s not the first time residents of the park have expressed frustration with the park’s owners.
Boulder’s Orchard Grove Mobile Home Park at 3003 Valmont Road is privately owned by a Michigan-based company called Riverstone Communities. So, when the 1960s-era infrastructure recently failed and residents were without water for five days they reached out to City Hall.
With little communication about how or when the problem would be solved, Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones said government officials felt compelled to get involved.
“One of the basic roles of local government is to make sure our residents have basic services,” said Jones. “And our hands our somewhat tied in this situation because you’re supposed to be providing those. So, understandably we’re a little disturbed about the breakdown that happened this past week.”
The water main break left residents without water from Monday, February 4 until Sunday, February 10. While repairs were underway, residents faced long periods of being unable to shower, wash dishes, flush toilets or do laundry. Council-member Sam Weaver pointed out that Riverstone did not have a functional map of the park’s plumbing utility system, which made addressing the problem very difficult. He pushed back when company representative Elizabeth Yurgens suggested Riverstone responded to the problem in a timely manner.
“Wasn’t the initial outage on Monday?” asked Weaver.
“Yes, but we didn’t start working on the repair until Wednesday because of parts availability and getting an excavator on site,” said Yergens.
“But from the perspective of your residents,” said Weaver, “the problem started on Monday. And your residents had been without water for two days already. We had to mobilize a lot of support from the city and county to manage this situation. What is your role in this do you feel?”
Yurgens didn’t answer Weaver’s question, but admitted there were lessons to be learned from the incident, and added that some new infrastructure has been installed and other contingencies put in place.
“We’ve had a second tank delivered, just in case,” said Yurgens. “So even though the water is back on, we have a second tank there to have an adequate water supply in case there’s a problem.”
Yurgens also told councilmembers that Riverstone would provide residents with up-to-date emergency contact information, in both Spanish and English. Most councilmembers wanted assurance that mobile home park residents would be reimbursed for any monetary losses. But Yurgens told council-member Mary Young that could be up to the company’s legal counsel.
This was not the first time residents of Orchard Grove have appealed to City Council to intervene with park owners. In recent years they have testified about unexpected rent increases and what they said were arbitrary fines and fees. Riverstone was previously court-ordered to adhere to the Mobile Home Park Act. But some Orchard Grove residents have said Hispanic homeowners fear deportation and would not demand that owners do so. Last year Boulder City Council passed an ordinance to address what they called a “power imbalance” in mobile home parks, mandating a “right to privacy” to prevent park owners from entering residents’ homes without consent.