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What are possible reasons for higher Harborton Place water rates?

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/7/18

Why are Harborton Place mobile home park residents suddenly seeing higher rates?

The Kodiak letter tells Harborton residents it is possible that the management company that ran the trailer court …

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What are possible reasons for higher Harborton Place water rates?

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Why are Harborton Place mobile home park residents suddenly seeing higher rates?

The Kodiak letter tells Harborton residents it is possible that the management company that ran the trailer court before Kodiak “was not billing back” Harborton residents for all the water and sewer they were using, and that the increase may be part of a correction.

Kodiak in the letter says ABT is “not marking up” water and sewer bills to Harborton residents, except to charge a “small” monthly administrative and processing fee.

“There are no significant markups of any kind on water and sewer usage, nor is Harborton Estates or Kodiak Property Management in any way ‘profiteering’ on water and sewer usage,” the letter said.

Unlike most Middletown homeowners, Harborton Place residents do not pay their water and sewer bill directly to Suez.

Instead, Suez has two bulk meters the company uses to bill the owners of Harborton. The owners bill each mobile home owner, through a separate meter that the owner has installed at each individual trailer.

Harborton residents own their mobile home, but rent the ground the home sits on from owners of the trailer court.

The water and sewer billing of each Harborton mobile home is handled for Kodiak by ABT Water Management, a company based in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Harborton resident Michael Maxwell is among those living at the trailer court who has complained about what he considers to be excessive water and sewer bills.

Maxwell, who uses oxygen from a tank to breathe, said his sole income is $1,550 a month for Social Security, and that he cannot afford to pay his most recent water bill of $242.06, covering Dec. 1 through Dec. 31. The bill is due to ABT by Feb. 10, after which it goes up to $244.48.

His water bill is higher than his electric bill, even though Maxwell said he keeps an electric space heater in his living room going “24/7.” His monthly electric bill, which Maxwell pays to the borough, averages $150, he told the Press & Journal.

Maxwell said he wasn’t having any issues regarding his water and sewer bill until after the Harborton ownership changed hands in February. His lot rent has also gone up $25 since then, to $350 a month, he said.

“They raised the rent, now we are getting these water bills,” he said.

Maxwell said he also doesn’t understand why his water and sewer bill has fluctuated so much in recent months.

Maxwell’s water and sewer bill for Oct. 1-31 was $122.36, compared to $83.45 for Nov. 1-30.

His bill had been typically running about $80 a month, Maxwell said, although he could not provide bills back farther than the one for October.

Maxwell said he has had water leaks in the past and that these are typical for anyone living in a mobile home. He said he thought that the leaks had been fixed by maintenance people working for Harborton management.

Even if there was a leak, Maxwell said he doesn’t see how that can result in a bill as high as $242. He said his water usage has not gone up dramatically, and is consistent from month to month.

“Being by myself I don’t use that much water,” Maxwell said.

But a closer look at Maxwell’s bills indicates his usage did go up significantly in December. His usage for that month was 3,450, compared to 1,860 for October and just 100 for November.

The November number seems abnormally low, when one considers that water consumption in a manufactured home averages 1,500 gallons a month, according to the letter from Kodiak to Harborton residents.

Alex Cabot, the principal of Crown Communities, told the Press & Journal that the new owners had been aggressive about detecting and fixing water leaks after taking over at Harborton.

“We had an engineering firm examine the main water lines last summer and they detected no leaks,” he said in the Feb. 2 email. “In addition, the same firm also did a thorough inspection of each tenants’ individual meter to ensure that it was in good working order and not producing erroneous readings. While conducting those inspections the engineers also examined the water lines under each house to verify that there were no leaks. Where leaks were found, we notified tenants and advised them to get the leaks fixed.”

But Cabot added that since Kodiak does not own the mobile homes Harborton residents live in, “we have no legal right to go inside the homes and inspect, hence we do not know if there are leaky toilets, dripping faucets, etc.”

Given what Kodiak contends are the abnormally high water and sewer rates charged by Suez, Cabot said the Dec. 4 letter is meant to provide tips to Harborton residents on how they can reduce water consumption to keep their bill as low as possible.

These include being “wary” of running toilets, looking for leaks and getting leaks fixed, not washing one’s vehicle using water from their own mobile home at Harborton, and limiting how much water is used taking baths and showers, the letter said.