Council to discuss water shut off at May 4 meeting

ALMONT — Kingsbrook Mobile Home Estates is on track to owe the village of Almont more than $98,000 in sewage and water fees next month and discussion of issuing a shut off notice to residents will take place on May 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the next village council meeting.

In February, Kingsbrook requested that the village remove 50% of late fees and penalties incurred since March, 2020 due to the failure to pay their water and sewage. At that time, the village council agreed to a payment plan with Kingsbrook Estates of $14,000 twice monthly. If the payments were made on time, the council agreed to remove 50% of the late fees.

Kingsbrook agreed to this payment plan. However, after making one payment, according to the council, Kingsbrook failed to follow through on the next two payments in the agreement. Currently, Kingsbrook Estates is delinquent by $54,846.77. The current quarterly bill of $43,544.95 is due by May 10, bringing the total owed at that time to $98,391.72.

Councilmember James Aleck is very concerned about the delinquency and wants to see action on the part of the village.

“This started before COVID last March. This has been an ongoing problem. I’ve been called by numerous people in the Village who want to know why they cannot let their water bill go late for a year, too,” he said.

Residents in Kingsbrook Mobile Home Estates are billed monthly by Kingsbrook’s corporate office for their lot rent, water, sewage, trash and cable. Kingsbrook, in turn, is obligated to pay
each entity for the individual services that cover the entire living community.

The Kingsbrook water bill has been discussed at the last few council meetings, and for the most part, Aleck leads the charge to make any attempt at resolving this issue.

“We need a solution to this. The problem is, we don’t know what that solution would be. Another question would be liability. Shutting the water off to 200 trailers, would basically make their homes inhabitable,” said President Steve Schneider at the April 6 council meeting.

After the April 6 meeting, Aleck spoke with Heather Schut of Kingsbrook Estates, to discuss the current delinquency. According to this conversation, Aleck said the business placed blame on residents not making payments due to COVID. Messages left for Heather Schut were not returned by press time.

Aleck also spoke with another employee in Kingsbrook Estates, “I spoke with the gentleman in the office. He informed me that during this whole pandemic, they have been shutting water off and collecting money; even though the corporate is saying they’re not getting money. I spoke to ten different residents coming in to get their mail, and they are shocked to hear that the corporate office is not paying their water bill, even though they are paying it.”

A resident of Kingsbrook for the past 12 years, shared that this is not the first time management has put residents in a position like this. The resident wished to remain anonymous due to fears that management could retaliate against him.

“We have a two-day grace period on our rent. If we don’t pay, they take action. We pay our bills on time, why can’t they?”

About 5 years ago the resident said, “A water meter was malfunctioning. The management never fixed it and let it go. When the village finally fixed it, Kingsbrook increased our rent. The residents were stuck with the bill.”

This resident said he is concerned that is what will happen in this situation as well. The resident said he was unaware that Kingsbrook was not paying the water bill until April 20 when his daughter watched a council meeting on YouTube and informed him what was being discussed.

The open discussion continued during the April 20 council meeting. After failing to follow through with the initial payment agreement, Kingsbrook Management spoke with Interim Manager Ian Kempf and they proposed a new payment schedule.

“They requested that they enter into a new payment schedule which would be a $19,000 a month agreement. I told them that that violated the terms of the first agreement as far as waiving the 50% of fees incurred. I invited them to attend tonight,” explained Kempf.

No representatives from Kingsbrook were in attendance at the council meeting.

“I believe we need to step harder on the trailer park. It’s time to send the shut off notice and stand on the shut off notice with the current bill. I would make a motion that June 11th, we disconnect their water if the bill is not paid in full,” Aleck said in explaining his position further.

President Schneider expressed concern for the amount of people a shut off would impact saying, “it seems so unfair to all of the people living there.” He noted that many of them are up to date on their water bills, but that management is the issue.

Councilmember Nick Giacalone concurred, but countered by comparing the trailer park to other multi-unit homes in the village.

“There are apartment buildings in town. They have less residents, but if they don’t pay, they get shut off. If you don’t pay your bill, your water gets shut off. If I don’t pay my bill, I get shut off. It’s just a bigger scale.”

After reviewing Kingsbrook’s payment history, Aleck further explained why he feels so strongly about taking action now, “If you go back two or three years, there have been times where they are ahead by $30,000, and that’s great, but there have been times where they have been very behind.”

Kempf has been in contact with management throughout the last few weeks. The reasons
that the park is behind in the payments are all due to non-payment from residents due to COVID.

“They are saying it is COVID-related. They have multiple people who were not paying their bill, and they were
not allowed to shut their water off,” Kempf relayed.

“They are proposing $19,000 and, of course, this time they assure us that they can make the

Councilmember Melinda Steffler said, “I think that’s rejected, I think that’s safe to say,” referring to the newly-proposed payment plan to which all councilmembers nodded in agreement.

Aleck stood by his initial concern, and would like to see this issue resolved as soon as possible.

“On the business aspect of it, they need to pay their bill. The Village of Almont should not sit on almost $100,000.”

Residents, mostly unaware of the situation, have been shocked to realize their water payments are not being paid to the village. Another resident of Kingsbrook since 2016 said her family pays their rent and other fees on time each month. In fact, when they received stimulus money, she was paying ahead of schedule to ensure that her family’s utilities were all covered.

She was surprised and angered to hear about the park’s failure to pay the village.

The council agreed to add the discussion to the regular agenda at their upcoming meeting on May 4.

Kingsbrook residents can contact their main office at 810-798-8205 with concerns regarding the potential shut off notice.