The entrance to Averill’s Mobile Home Park in Benton on Nov. 25. With a third well in place, the water supply is once again adequate for the residents. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

BENTON — After a late summer and fall without sufficient water, the 28 families living in Averill’s Mobile Home Park have a water supply back at normal levels.

A severe summer drought may have contributed to the shortage, but the park’s owners claim a now-evicted tenant “sabotaged” the park by intentionally wasting water.

“The people that were doing this intentionally, trying to sabotage the business for whatever reason they’re doing it for, all they did is hurt their fellow tenants, cost us a lot of money and give my father a bad name when there was no need for it,” said Susan Schoenig, daughter of the park’s owner, Roger Averill.

But there are lingering concerns among park residents about how the costs to solve the water problems have been levied.

Many residents of the park, who spoke anonymously because they feared retaliation by park management, take exception to three increases in land rent in a year: $10 a month that started Jan. 1; $50 a month that started July 1; and $25 a month to start Jan. 1, 2021, to help cover the expenses of a new, third well. For a double-wide, lot costs are now $290 per month, one resident said.

Tenants are concerned about the three rent increases within a calendar year. Many of the park’s residents are on fixed incomes, and they are concerned about the rising costs of living. Further, the coronavirus pandemic has made finances tighter for most.

Diann Prince, a 32-year resident of Averill’s, said in a phone interview that she doesn’t know who the person was who was allegedly wasting water, but doesn’t believe any of her neighbors intentionally wasted water.

“I’m infuriated that they’re raising the rent for these water expenses,” said Lori Tibbetts, Prince’s daughter, who said she is going to have to pick up more hours at work to help her mother pay the increase. “She shouldn’t have to pay another increase for one simple thing that should’ve been provided safely.”

In September 2019, Averill’s Mobile Home Park was cited by the Maine Drinking Water Program for using unregulated, untested and undocumented wells for residents’ water. Now, the record is clean.

Nonetheless, tenants don’t think they should be paying for the costs of a water system replacement and upgrades.

“In reality, shouldn’t we be reimbursed for the illegal water system?” one resident said. “It’s really a sad situation. I think that the tenants shouldn’t be mixed into the family feuds and lawsuits, as it’s inappropriate. We want water and we want to live in peace.”

Even so, residents contacted by the Morning Sentinel said there is enough water now.

Prince said that there is enough water at all times, but said she isn’t drinking it despite the park’s boil-water order being lifted.

“I canned some pickles, and when I put them in my canner to process them, when I took them out and they dried, the outside of the jars were covered with white powder,” said Prince, who is 79. “And they said that they had to put chemicals and stuff in the water.”

A Maine Division of Environmental and Community Health spokesperson said Averill’s Mobile Home Park was one of three public water systems that reported shortages to the state recently. The other two were in Penobscot County.

According to the most recent inspection records obtained by the Morning Sentinel, no water deficiencies were found in the November inspection.

In emails, representatives from the Maine Drinking Water Program and Maine Manufactured Housing Program said the water in the park was OK.

“We believe that the water quality and quantity now meet the standard and that all residents now have an adequate supply of clean and potable water,” the Maine Manufactured Housing Program said in an emailed response to questions.

“The Manufactured Housing Program is not aware of any additional concerns with the water quality or quantity.”

Homes at Averill’s Mobile Home Park in Benton on Nov. 25. With a third well in place, the water supply is once again adequate for the residents. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

MANAGEMENT’S CONTENTIONS

In a fall newsletter sent to residents obtained by the Morning Sentinel recently, Averill’s Mobile Home Park owner Roger Averill claimed “sabotage by some of the park tenants” led to the water problems.

“We’re very sad for our tenants that were not involved in this, that had nothing to do with it,” Schoenig said. “It’s really unfair, the expense that it has come to, and that expense does get passed onto everybody in the park. And for the ones that are not involved, we feel very badly that this has happened to any of us.”

Averill, 87, provided residents with the meter numbers for water usage in the newsletter and said a third well turned on Oct. 15 was an unnecessary expense had water not been wasted.

In the list of meter numbers Averill published, water was being wasted from Sept. 2 to 15. Within that span, the park’s water tanks fed by wells apparently did not reach capacity, and park management on Sept. 9, asked residents to limit water usage and issued a boil water order.

Averill’s list then indicates that drought ensued from Sept. 16 to Oct. 14 with the low level of water in the well-fed storage tanks forcing the park to limit water to residents from Sept. 19 to Oct. 14 by turning it on for an hour in the morning and an hour at night and at no other time.

On Oct. 15, when the third well was turned on, Averill’s list indicates that the waste of water resumed until it stopped on Oct. 30 with no indication of drought. The third well, at 600 feet, replaced another well, which was 65 feet.

In his letter to residents and during a phone interview, Averill said the park used as much as 14,500 gallons the day after the well was turned on.

Averill wrote that management told a tenant that wasting water is a federal offense when tampering with a public water supply and that the park would press charges.

Schoenig said they can’t press charges, but have turned over all information to the Maine Drinking Water Program.

“We also have evidence of other people wasting water in the park intentionally,” Schoenig said. “We just can’t identify who at this point.”

The tenant who was allegedly wasting the water was evicted on Oct. 23. The park has an ongoing issue with the former tenant about nonpayment of rent, Schoenig said.

After getting evicted, the former tenant started sneaking back into the house at night, Schoenig said. After management changed locks on the door, the park’s water usage decreased by more than 7,000 gallons in a single day.

According to the letter, management confronted another tenant Oct. 29, which resulted in a decrease of water used to more normal levels, with no more than 4,400 gallons used per day from then on.

Schoenig said the decreases resulting from the actions park management took were evidence of the tampering.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: