Aspen Village seeks help to improve park
By Robert Stevens
MT. PLEASANT—Some 20 Aspen Village residents came to learn more about the city’s plans to solve long-standing problems in their mobile home community at a special meeting last Thursday afternoon at city hall.
Hosted by Mayor Michael Olsen and Monte Bona, executive director of the Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA), the meeting was attended by numerous long-term residents as well as a few relative newcomers. One resident expressed thanks to the city’s leaders for their efforts to help him and his neighbors, and concluded by saying, “Just because we live in a trailer doesn’t mean we are trailer trash.”
Murmurs of agreement rippled through the audience, which then showed great interest in a presentation by Zach Leavitt, from the Six County Association of Governments. Referring to various forms of assistance available thru the regional government agency, Leavitt talked at length about a weatherization-assistance program that could improve the coziness and energy efficiency of all kinds of homes. In cases where the home proves to be too deteriorated to make weatherization effective, the availability of low-cost loans could even help replacement of a decrepit home.
Sunrise Engineering representative Trenton Brown explained the city’s grant-funded program would soon begin installing a new water main throughout the community with individual supply lines going to each home, complete with individual water meters and shut-off valves. He then asked the residents to come forward and help him identify, on an aerial map of the subdivision, the location of existing water lines or shut-off values they were aware of.
During the meeting, many other community concerns received some discussion or at least a mention. These included: the odor from the remains of a burn-out trailer; the fire hazard posed by homes being too close to each other; non-functioning fire hydrants; abandoned trailers; the absence of storm drains; and the burgeoning feral cat population.
Before the meeting’s end, the mayor expressed an interest in personally visiting the community to observe residents’ concerns first hand. A rendezvous was set for Saturday at 11 a.m.
Thankfully, a break in the weather made Saturday’s get together much more comfortable than it would have been a day or two earlier. And, a few minutes before the agreed-upon hour, the first Aspen Village resident, Chris Gardner, was on hand, waiting near the two-way entry to the community.
Chris and his wife, Dianne, had both attended the meeting at city hall. As a 25-year resident of Aspen Village, Dianne’s experience exceeded her husband’s by some 10 years. Yet, other residents, like Chad Plute, who was the second resident on hand ahead of the mayor’s arrival Saturday, had even more years of residency under their belts.
“I lived here almost 40 years now,” said Plute, as he talked of the many changes he had witnessed over that time. Soon another two residents joined the small group preparing to meet the mayor. Carlos Navarro, one of the community’s teenagers, came to observe and report back to his mom and dad whatever transpired.
Sam Ostler indicated he was there to represent not only for himself, but also for his wife, Cathy. Likewise, the first resident to arrive, Chris Gardner, indicated that his wife, Dianne, was looking forward his report after the mayor’s visit.
Olsen arrived punctually at 11 with an aerial map of Aspen Village in his hand, and was immediately shown a fire hydrant near the entrance that failed to function during a fire in the community a few years back because its adjacent valve, required to turn on the water, had gotten buried. Obviously, the supposedly required annual testing had not been done for years.
Later, during Olsen’s walking tour, the only fire hydrant within the subdivision, which bore a circular “out of service” sign, was pointed out to the mayor. Yet, despite its non-functioning designation, the hydrant dripping water steadily, and even emitted powerful little squirts when bumped.
The community’s lack of adequate fire hydrants was only one of the problems pointed out to Olsen. The lack of a storm drainage system was visible in multiple locations.
Nearby, blacktop pavement in the bend of the road had been dug up some three or four inches to reveal a round sewer manhole cover that had been had completely buried. One man in the group spoke of having had to use a pick and shovel to reach the hidden cast-iron cover.
He also told the mayor that to the best of knowledge, the water and electrical lines to each home can be found running side by side directly to and from the green electrical box located above ground, on a post, in the middle of each yard. Sadly, he pointed out that since mobile homes have no basements, the sewer line to and from each home was located at the same depth as the water and electrical lines—making new connections more difficult to manage.
As the residents and mayor walked around, a lot of questions got asked and answered, and the mayor made various notes on his map. A great deal of brain storming also took place: mostly about how best to proceed with installing the new water lines, which will involve tearing up on side of the road and then the other; in some places it will also be necessary to cut directly across the road.
With parking at a premium, one idea that came up during all the brainstorming was the possibility of using one or more of the vacant lots to create off-street parking space. Having such space may become very important when the road becomes half as wide as usual.
All in all, the morning seemed to go well, and the mayor was certainly given a lot to think about. Without creating false hopes or unrealistic expectations, he saw firsthand that there was much to be done and only 12-18 months of grant funding remaining for the new water line installation to be completed—with no engineering study yet completed.