Aspen Village renovation underway, but some projects may have to wait

This aerial photo of Aspen Village in Mt. Pleasant shows how large and dense the park has grown. A project is under way now to improve infrastructure and fire safety in the trailer court, but it needs more funding to move forward.

MT. PLEASANT—An effort to improve affordable housing options in Mt. Pleasant City is under way at the Aspen Village trailer court, but some upgrades may have to wait until more funding is secured.

The project, which aims to repair vital infrastructure and improve other functions in Aspen Village, had been moving along nicely, says Monte Bona, Mt. Pleasant Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA) director—until the funding for it came up short.

The project has been in the works for a while, since Mt. Pleasant City was awarded a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the purpose of improving the aging trailer court. On top of that, Mt. Pleasant chipped in $103,000 from its water fund towards the project.

The grant funding, which was secured early this year, was thought by Mt. Pleasant officials to possibly not be enough to complete the project as originally planned, but they carried forward with it to accomplish what they could with what they had, Bona says.

In fact, after the initial bids on the project came in more than $100,000 above budget, city officials came to the conclusion that the project would have to be scaled back for now.

With the higher-than-expected bids, Bona says the effort is being approached in phases, prioritizing the most important parts first.

The first phase was about improving the vital infrastructure—specifically water infrastructure, says Bona. The water lines in place were degrading from age, and due to their small 4-inch size, the only fire hydrant available to use in Aspen Village was actually outside the court near the entrance, greatly complicating the ability of Mt. Pleasant Fire Department to efficiently douse a blaze in Aspen Village’s interior.

The first phase of the project has installed new 8-inch water mains in the court, providing the ability to install three fire hydrants inside the court itself, giving much needed access to water for fighting fires.

Diane Gardener has been a resident of Aspen Village for 26 years, and she says the new mains and hydrants are perhaps one of the most crucial components of the efforts. Since her arrival in the mid 1990s, Gardener says she has seen the park grow from nine trailers to more than 30. The growth of the park has made Aspen Village so dense with buildings that it is a disaster waiting to happen, she says.

“I have seen four fires happen in Aspen Village since I came here,” Garden told the Sanpete Messenger. “The most recent one, I watched the fire department struggle to reach the only hydrant. It took a long time, and they had to bring in more trucks for more hose to reach. It could have ended up much worse than it did very easily”

With three new hydrants, bringing the total to four for the court including the pre-existing one at the entrance, the department will now be able to respond to fires much more quickly and with immediate access to the water they need to extinguish a blaze.

The second phase of the project will have to be accomplished once more funding is secured, Bona says. It is about installing individual water meters for each residence in Aspen Village.

When Aspen Village was first built, it was a private trailer park with just a handful of trailers, says Trenton Brown, an engineer with Sunrise Engineering, who is heading up the project for Mt. Pleasant. Aspen Village went through a couple of different owners before Mt. Pleasant decided to convert the park to a local affordable housing area, effectively turning it into the only mobile home subdivision in Sanpete County. By contrast, any other subdivision in Mt. Pleasant would have individual water meters mandated for each home, Brown says. It wasn’t until the recent acquisition of the CDBG grant that Aspen Village was seriously considered for a conversion like this.

Currently, Aspen Village residents all draw their water through a single meter, but this creates a problem, says Brown. If a water line is broken—say it freezes, for example—the water must be shut off for the entire park.

Gardner says it’s not uncommon for this to happen several times a year, and every winter someone’s pipes freeze, break and the poor drainage in the park causes flooding.

“We have learned to never set anything on the floor of the garage during winter,” Gardner says. “It never fails that something happens and the flooding comes through and soaks it.”

For the moment, installation of individual water meters is on hold until new funding comes through, but Brown says any resident who wants to pay to have the work done right away to get their meters installed can do it.

“Normally that is what they’d have to do anyway,” Brown says. “This project is kind of a special case scenario and so the city is trying to get them all done. The city wants to do it as quickly as possible, it’s just a matter of finding the right funding. I know of at least one household in Aspen Village that plans to move forward with installing their meter themselves right away.”

The final phase of the project is a ways off, Bona says, but involves the city helping residents of Aspen Village to replace their current trailer or manufactured home, many of which are severely dilapidated, with a newer and safer unit when appropriate.

“The CDRA saw this as a great potential project area that involves housing, and we still want to focus on that as we see this as an opportunity to improve affordable housing in Mt. Pleasant,” Bona says.

Although the third phase of the project is only a concept right now, Bona says it’s an important part and hopes to see it accomplished in a reasonable time frame.

Gardner sees these improvements on Aspen Village as a great step forward, but also has other concerns and hopes for change in the court. One of the main problems she sees in the park comes from “Do It Yourself” additions to the trailers and mobile homes there built by residents.

“I have been attending council meetings and saying this since 1996,” Gardner says. “If the residents want to add something on, they need to go through the proper channels. Get building permits, have the inspector out. I have done it that way and so can everyone else.”

She says the park is full of homemade sheds, carports and add-ons that totally ignore setback ordinances and every year the building density gets more unsafe and more of a fire hazard.

“If a big fire comes through here, it’s going to be a disaster,” she says. “Even with the new fire hydrants.”