Ronda commissioners discuss installing water meters

By Troy Brooks -

RONDA — Ronda town commissioners and property owners expressed their concerns on plans to install water meters at two mobile home parks to monitor water use and costs. The water meters are being considered due to accounts being frequently opened and closed and bills not being paid for usage.

The meters would provide a better monitoring and control over the amount of billing for water usage at the properties and the bills for said properties and rentals, according to town officials. The town has been making plans to install the meters at two trailer parks, East Wilkes High School and Carolina Precision Fiber.

“We should also get in contact with the trailer park owners so they can have an opportunity to express their feelings and concerns on the decision,” said Town Administrator Ron Niland. “The conversion would be strictly the board adopting the policy on whatever day they select to start it. It’s important to let them know that we are considering the transition so they will have time to make changes.”

Some of the commissioners expressed their concerns on the effects of installing the water meters at the trailer parks and the effects it will have on the park owners.

“You have these two trailer parks for installing meters, ” said Mayor Pro-Tem Rheajean Benge. “Is he going to have to raise his rental fees to meet costs or is it going to have to come out of his pocket?”

For Michael C. Finnie, owner of rental park Gwyn Street Village, paying out of pocket is not an option and he asked the board to consider a few things.

“Listen, what you’re doing is asking me to bear the load for these individual tenants,” said Finnie. “I hope to have different tenants from what you see at that trailer park as I’m trying to improve the quality of the livability in them. I want to provide a nicer residence and residents, but many of those trailers are not practical to refurbish.”

Finnie is trying to improve the quality of the trailers as many of them were in poor condition when he took them over. Only a few sites can be used for renters.

“The sites that are out of city limits now I have no intention of occupying,” said Finnie. “People have been having trouble with things disappearing. Out of the 12 sites, one is livable. The others, some of them are not practical to refurbish. It’s going to cost $900 a piece to refurbish them and with my farm mortgage I’m not going to put money into this. Some lots will be rented so individuals can bring their own trailer in. I’ve got one trailer that I bought and three others we intend to refurbish that would be practical so we’ll have four trailers and four lots for a total of eight.”

As Finnie prepares units for occupancy, he has stated that he may get a contract together for one-year leases. However, he still has concerns over the town’s possible decision to install master meters and how that will affect the profitability of his business.

Finnie doesn’t think the costs required to install the meters are going to be worthwhile financially.

“You’re going to have to connect every existing meter. You’re going to have machinery out on the property and I’m not going to pay for that,” said Finnie. “That’s the first thing you need to consider. And if you balance that against the cost that you’re thinking you’re going to reduce somehow, there’s going to be several years before you break even on that.”

Finnie is willing to work with the town and notify the board members on his residents’ movements.

Niland expressed his concerns about some of the possible issues of line maintenance that should be addressed in the project and that there may be a possible solution aside from the master meters to solving the water problems.

“The other trailer park has about seven units. The issue that I feel we have to deal with is the town accepting responsibility of the maintenance of the line up to the meter,” said Niland. “That’s pretty typical. One of the issues that I have to find out about first is if we go to a master meter, then the point of delivery for us is the master meter and all those lines on the inside are yours. You’re responsible for fixing them and repairing them. That’s on the property owner. But, with that said, with the number of units we’re talking about and with the board being a little more aggressive on cutting people off for not paying the bill, we might be able to satisfy what we need. What we may have to do is have a higher deposit for private properties. It’s important to get more information to see what it would it look like if we go to this. It might not make sense to go for the meters in the end.”

Niland suggested the town get in contact with the owner of the other trailer park and have both owners come to the next workshop meeting on Aug. 4 to discuss the issue. He has also stated the town’s switch from Quickbooks to a computer-based billing system also could provide much-needed reports for the town and property owners and renters.

“This is a situation that needs to be done with some thought and corporation,” said Niland. “We don’t want to harm anyone’s business, but we need to protect ourselves as well. We want to see people like Mr. Finnie expand their rentals. Not only would it be good for his business, but it will be good for the town of Ronda. I think there are some positives that can come out of this, and we might not have to go to the master meters if we work together. This can be a win-win situation.”

In other news from the town meeting, the agenda, minutes, and expenditures were all passed unanimously.

Job descriptions for town clerk, assistant town clerk, full-time maintenance worker, and park-time maintenance workers workers were approved.

Three ordinances were discussed to be enacted including a neural penalties ordinance to be applied to everyone, a public nuisance ordinance which will include abandoned property, and an ordinance to regulate farm animals. A public hearing will be set on Aug. 4 during the work session so people can give their opinions on the ordinances.

Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.

By Troy Brooks

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