The city has decided to stay in the mobile home park business awhile longer. Responding to a suggestion by the city manager to sell the 79-home park, the City Council voted unanimously late Tuesday night to continue running it.
Council members asked city staff to study the costs of running the Municipal Mobile Home Park _ and to calculate how much the city should raise rents at the park, which is just off Grand Boulevard behind the police station.
"I prefer a rate increase initially and then discuss the feasibility of selling the lots to the people who own the trailers," City Council member Debra Prewitt said during Tuesday night's meeting. Besides, Prewitt continued, the park could end up in the hands of an "unscrupulous bargain hunter looking for an investment who doesn't care about the people."
City Manager Gerald Seeber had asked council members to consider selling the park because it did not make good business sense for the city to continue running it.
"I do not understand why the city should continue to remain in the mobile home park operation business," Seeber wrote in a memo to council members. "The provision of a low-cost mobile home environment for a select group of residents in the city does not seem to be in the best public interest."
Although running the park is not in the best financial interest for the city, it is in the best interest of the public trust, council member Dell deChant. said.
"The people in the park . . . have come to trust that the city will continue to offer them affordable housing," deChant said.
The owners of the 79 mobile homes in the park currently pay $50 a month to rent the space. Chuck Vining, who has lived in the park five years, asked council members to consider increasing the rent to $75 over a three-year period.
"You can't continue to operate at a loss," Vining said during the meeting. "If someone else came in to (buy) the mobile home park, they are going to go wild in there. Most of the people wouldn't stand a chance."
But John Silver, who lives elsewhere in the city, said the city should look after all the residents, not just a few.
"We're a great city for subsidizing," Silver said. "When are we going to look after the rest of the citizens like me? No one is subsidizing us."
The city has run the park since the 1930s, when it was a travel trailer park. The park gradually grew into a place for mobile homes.
No new mobile home has been brought into the park in years, Seeber said. The newer tenants have bought existing mobile homes at the park.
The park is considered affordable housing, said Planning and Zoning Director Michael Sherman. But he wasn't sure how many, if any, of the residents would meet state standards for low-income affordable housing.
The city annually takes in about $45,000 rent from park tenants, Seeber said, and it spends about $22,000 annually maintaining the park. However, that figure doesn't include other work regularly done by city crews, Seeber said. For example, much water and sewer equipment work is not billed to park residents.
"We aren't making a whole lot of money on it," he said. "It is a break-even proposition."