Sunday, November 20, 2016

Facing Uncertainty Over Failing Infrastructure/Sewage Problems, Dozens Of Lot-Leasing Homeowners In Deteriorating, Low-Income Mobile Home Park Form Co-Op To Buy Out Landlord, Then Establish Their Own Water & Sewer District, Scoring Over $2 Million In Free Gov't Money To Upgrade Premises, Save It From Ruin

In Great Falls, Montana, the Great Falls Tribune reports:
  • Six years ago, Don Feist was entangled in a feud with the owners of Trailer Terrace Park.

    Now, he owns it.

    Well, Feist and about 90 others own it as he led the charge to form a co-operative to purchase the beleaguered low-income park that had monumental infrastructure problems, including what the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation officials called in a 2013 Tribune story the worst water and sewer systems they had ever seen.(1)

    Thanks to the work of Feist and many others, work is well underway to upgrade the water and sewer systems as they continue the work to replace the open lagoon sewer system and all of the infrastructure in the park.
    ***
    “Don kept working and kept working and kept working and brought the neighbors together and formed a co-op,” said NeighborWorks Great Falls executive director Sheila Rice. “He’s a classic example of what one person can do to keep a community together.”

    She points out that the 230 or so people who live in Trailer Terrace, about 1.7 miles south of Great Falls on Lower River Road, make up a population greater than about 30 incorporated cities in Montana.

    “It really needed the attention that other communities get, and Don’s work and the work of others, including NeighborWorks, really brought that together,” Rice said.

    Before the neighbors started fighting for their park, the property was going in and out of foreclosure and the “temporary” water system that was installed years ago was falling apart. There also was high levels of arsenic detected in the water in 2012. And the open lagoon sewer system is smelly.

    “Everybody on Lower River Road is going to be glad when that’s gone (in the spring),” Feist said.
    ***
    [F]eist credits many people, including Rice and the other folks at NeighborWorks, the investor at ROC USA, which stands for resident-owned communities,(2) the county commission and fellow residents with making it possible.
    ***
    It also has been quite an education. “We had to figure out we had to,” he said. “It’s kind of like the dog that chased the car and caught it. What do you do with it?”

    That is where he said NeighborWorks has been so helpful as the co-op had to enter the granting world, which was foreign. “Sheila Rice has been a saint through all this,” Feist said.

    The residents formed a water and sewer district, which has applied for and received $2.8 million from state and federal agencies to construct new water and sewer treatment systems. All but $500,000 of the money is from grants.

    Work is continuing on those projects and in other bit of good news, the Eden Market is about to open in front of the park.

    Feist said he heard often that the co-op would fail, but he said it has no problem paying its bills and has money in the bank to continue funding improvements.
For the story, see Great Falls man honored for work on trailer park.
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(1) See, generally, Trailer Terrace to be purchased: Residents nearing deal to buy park, fix the water (A trailer park community of 250 residents outside of Great Falls with a history of terrible water is nearing a deal in which residents would buy the park for $1.5 million and use $2.1 million in public funds to build new water and sewer systems).

(2) ROC USA, LLC
helps resident corporations buy their manufactured home communities or “mobile home parks” from private community owners. ROC USA is a non-profit organization with a mission of making quality resident ownership possible nationwide.

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