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Council, Park Argue Over Rates

Green Haven RV Park residents, owner could see water costs triple

The city of Falls City and Green Haven RV Park have solved a dispute over how the park is charged for water use.

The city of Falls City and Green Haven RV Park have solved a dispute over how the park is charged for water use. Photo by Jolene Guzman.

FALLS CITY — The owners of Green Haven RV Park and the city of Falls City can’t agree on how the park should be charged for water.

In December, the Falls City City Council asked Mayor Terry Ungricht to negotiate a contract with Green Haven to establish a bill that’s more in line with how the rest of the residential customers served by city water are charged.

The park has one meter, so Ungricht recommended the park be changed to a “multiplier” based on the number of “non-temporary” spots in the park. The city charges multipliers to other multi-unit complexes in town.

Councilor Jenn Drill said that after an initial meeting with park owner Richard Bowman and his sons, she was encouraged the two sides would come to an agreement.

Between that gathering and the council’s meeting Thursday, something had changed.

Mike Bowman, one of Richard Bowman’s sons, read a letter to the council at the meeting outlining his family’s objection to the proposed water contract.

He said the contract would charge three times the current bill.

The water bill change stemmed from a previous dispute with the city over whether the recreational vehicles in the park needed to be moved.

The park’s permit with the city required RVs to be moved every 180 days.

When the city tried to enforce that provision, the Bowmans presented the city with a state law that said otherwise.

The law states no time limit can be enforced so long as there are water, sewer and electrical hookups available.

That is true of 30 spots in the RV park.

The council reasoned if the residents of the park are no longer considered temporary by state law, then they could pay water rates comparable to other city residents.

Mike Bowman disputed that claim.

“These are not permanent homes. Just because a law says they can stay as long as they want, doesn’t mean they are permanent residents,” he said. “They are on wheels and can be moved at any time.”

Ungricht said he tried to address that in the contract, leaving it open for further negotiations if the park lost residents.

“That’s why I tried to give them an agreement that offset that,” Ungricht said.

Mike Bowman asked that the city leave the park alone.

“This (contract) is totally unacceptable. If it takes a court of law to show you how outrageous this is, we can let the attorneys handle it,” he said. “We can’t help feeling picked on, possibly even harassed by the city.”

The council previously agreed to have Ungricht charge the park for 30 spots at the residential rate of $41.96 per month.

However, Ungricht found that the city’s code would not allow that.

Instead he would have to charge a multiplier of 30 at a rate of $108.86, which is the charge for the two-inch water line serving the park.

He said he didn’t believe that was the intent of the council to charge that much, so he decided to charge for 10 spots at the $108.86 rate.

The city’s municipal code allows for special contracts when an “applicant’s requirements for water are unusual or large.”

“I tried to do a fair agreement, looking at what the intent of council was, keeping it within the way we bill now and looking at what they use for water, so where they were paying somewhat comparable to the other customers in the city,” he said.

With negotiations at a stand-still, Ungricht will be informing the park of its new bill.

The park will be charged for 30 “non-temporary” spots, the shower room and the double-wide manufactured manager’s residence at the $108.86 rate, plus $10 for each hookup for the city’s utility reserve fund.

“I will probably draft a letter through our attorney that we will be putting on a multiplier,” Ungricht said. “It’s going to be a substantial bill.”

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