By Nancy Schaar
MALVERN -Water will remain turned on at Sandy Creek Mobile Home Estates (former Kidder’s Trailer Park) near Malvern.
About 20 residents of the mobile home park were in attendance at a hearing held in Carroll County Municipal Court Jan. 29 on legal action filed to stop the village of Malvern from shutting off water service due to a delinquent bill. Attorneys Andrew Neuhauser and Michael Harrington of the Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SEOL) represented trailer park residents at the hearing. Representing the village of Malvern were Administrator Marcus Benson, and Solicitor Chad Murdock. Attorney John McCall represented the lien holder on the property, Russell Reed. Joe LaMonica was also with Reed and McCall. LaMonica is a real estate agent who, at one time, sent a letter to park residents advising them to send all rent payments to him but in Reed’s name.
Malvern officials sent a notice to Reed stating water to the mobile home park would be disconnected Jan. 24 due to the non-payment of more than $15,000 in back water bills. That amount has now increased to nearly $24,000. Benson said the January water bill has been added to the amount due and that includes fees and penalties.
Neuhauser obtained a temporary restraining order last week to prevent the village from turning off the water to residents Jan. 24.
Following questions from Municipal Court Judge Gary Willen addressed to McCall, Reed and Malvern representatives, Willen ordered rent payments for all 29 mobile homes occupied in the park be paid to the court and kept in an escrow account.
All parties were in agreement.
The current water bill will be paid directly to Malvern from the escrow account.
The issue of the past due bill was not addressed.
Benson said it is a separate legal issue between the village and Reed. Residents stated they do not want their rent money in the escrow account to be used to pay the delinquent water bill because it was included in rent they already paid.
McCall requested the remaining $4,000 per month in rent (after the water bill is paid) assigned to Reed, but Willen determined the entire amount of rental income would remain in escrow.
Reed stopped paying the water bill in 2017 after a new water meter was installed at the mobile home park by the village. The monthly bill increased and Reed said he couldn’t afford the bill and quit paying.
The meter was rechecked and re-calibrated and shown to be working correctly after installation.
McCall said Reed tried to check water pipes in the mobile homes but residents wouldn’t let him in. Reed believes that the water leakage is coming from inside the mobile homes from leaky toilets, faucets, pipes and drains.
“Mr. Reed brought in a track hoe and equipment and went to 12 homes but was denied access to any of them,” said McCall. Reed also contends that he hired four workmen to repair outside leaks when they were found. Reed said none were found.
“I dispute his thoroughness and no one denied him access,” said Newhouser.
When asked by Willen how many units are in the park, Reed said 29 were rented but was unsure of the total saying perhaps 50 units all together.
Willen questioned Benson regarding the actions of the village. Benson said the village water department found that one line was a four-inch line and the connection was changed to a two-inch line.
The village then replaced the two-inch for a four-inch line and installed the new meter because they did not believe the meter at the trailer park was working properly.
“This was when we were able to identify the amount that was actually being used,” said Benson.
The plumber will be made available for residents to hire to repair any leaks if found.
When questioned further by Willen, McCall said he could have the inspections done by March 1.
“The residents want to cooperate and take care of this,” said Willen.
“We assume there are more leaks in than out. They could pay the certified plumber to make the repairs,” said McCall.
McCall wanted the repairs completed in seven days after they were found but Neuhauser said many of the residents are on a limited income and suggested an extended time line of perhaps 30 days instead for the repairs to be made.
McCall asked Willen to assign Reed the additional $4,000 each month so lien holders could be paid. Willen asked Reed how much the loan payment was and Reed responded it is a $325,000 loan and the payment is $2,900 per month.
Following the hearing, Benson was pleased that at least the village will be guaranteed future water bills will be paid.
“That is a huge amount to the village. The village just can’t forgive an amount that large,” said Benson. He said he was glad something was finally being done and the water will stay on.