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Councilman proposes individual water meters for mobile homes

Sunnyside City Councilman Don Vlieger says you can call it a discount or a subsidy, but either way many mobile home park residents are getting a huge break when it comes to their water, sewer and garbage bills.

"Is this fair to all the other rate payers?," Vlieger asked his Council peers. "The fundamental issue is fairness."

At Monday evening's Council meeting, Vlieger suggested city staff begin developing an ordinance that would make it mandatory for new mobile home park owners to install individual meters at each dwelling. He also is seeking to have the ordinance allow for existing mobile home park owners to switch over to individual metering, if they so request.

Currently, most of Sunnyside's mobile home parks have one central water meter. The cost of water, sewer and garbage services is factored in to each resident's monthly rent. The rate the city charges mobile home park owners is vastly different than the rate paid by families in regular neighborhoods.

According to figures Vlieger worked up for last night's meeting, comparing actual bills for an existing 163-space mobile home park to an estimated individual billing that he said was provided by the city's finance department, the city would reap more than double what is currently being collected in utility fees. Vlieger said at the present time there are well over 1,000 mobile homes in Sunnyside.

In many instances, he said, the amount of water being used by families in mobile home parks runs anywhere from 2,000 to 2,400 cubic feet per month. He compared those numbers to a base line of 300 cubic feet per month.

"They're using water like it's water," said Vlieger.

Individual metering, Vlieger said, would not only bring in more revenue for the city, but would encourage water conservation.

Mayor Ed Prilucik pointed out that he personally would have a problem with city meters being set up in a private development, noting that underground infrastructure would have to be brought up to code and the city would have to be given easements, or right-of-ways into each park.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said it might be a tough sale to convince people to send their utility payments to the city, all the while telling some of them that the city might not be responsible for fixing their problems.

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar voiced her adamant objection to Vlieger's proposal, saying her primary concern would be the huge rate increase for the people living in mobile home parks.

"The federal government has designated us as one of the poorest areas in the state," Aguilar said. "Based on what I've heard, I'm not in favor of this at all."

Prilucik attempted to kill the proposal, suggesting that the idea be brought back to Council at a later time as a discussion item. But Vlieger pointed out that at least four of the Council members-himself, Bruce Ricks, James Restucci and Mike Farmer-had expressed a desire to move forward with the proposal and asked Prilucik to direct city staff to begin researching what it will take to make the idea a reality. Prilucik agreed and put the ball in the city staff's court.

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