Top Ten #10: Aspen Village Renovation
MT. PLEASANT— The city has spent most of the year, and a great deal of energy, money and resources, fixing up the Aspen Village Mobile Home Park.
Much progress has made as a new 8-inch water main and three new fire hydrants have been installed to keep the mobile home community from going up in flames. Other efforts have fallen short, due in part, to a lack of funding and construction bids that have come in way over budget.
The lack of water lines and fire hydrants at Aspen Village were just some of many long-standing problems the city set out to tackle in late February. Other reported problems were dilapidated homes, add-on sheds that violated codes, abandoned trailers, burnt-out structures, eyesores, the absence of storm drains, the lack of individual water meters and even a large feral cat population.
In late March, about 20 village residents met with city officials to overcome these problems. One resident at the meeting said, “Just because we live in a trailer doesn’t mean we are trailer trash.” Murmurs of agreement rippled through the audience.
So, with clipboards in tow, city officials, including Mayor Michael Olsen and Monte Bona, executive director of the Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA), toured Aspen Village and sought out grant funding.
By mid-June, city leaders were trying to secure about $375,000 in grant funding to solve Aspen Village’s biggest water related problems.
Bids had been solicited from contractors to install a new water main, a new fire hydrant, and new individual supply lines, with separate meters, running to each of the mobile homes in the park.
Upon opening the bids, it was discovered that even the low bid of $520,000 greatly exceeded the $375,000 in projected grant funding. That disappointing discovery left the three city officials in attendance—Olsen, Bona, and finance director Dave Oxman—scratching their heads.
Eventually, Bona suggested, “It looks like we need to either scale back the project or get the granter to give us more money, which I doubt they will do.” After that, the five men began brain storming ways to obtain additional funding or scale back the project’s scope.
By October, the city realized it would have to scale back the project. The city had received a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant and it was going to chip in another $103,000 from its water fund for improvements at Aspen Village.
The grant funding was not nearly enough to complete the project as originally planned, but the city was going forward to accomplish what they could with what they had, Bona said.
Now, the effort is being approached in phases, prioritizing the most important parts first.
The first phase of the project added a new 8-inch water main line and three fire hydrants inside the court. This was considered vital to fight fires.
The second phase of the project is to install individual water meters for each residence in Aspen Village. This will have to be accomplished once additional funding is secured, Bona said.
The final phase of the project is a ways off, Bona said, but involves helping residents of Aspen Village 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 said.
Although the third phase of the project is only a concept right now, Bona said it’s an important part and hopes to see it accomplished in a reasonable time frame.