After Waitsfield declared a public health emergency over standing effluent surrounding a failed leach field at VerdMont Mobile Home Park on Tremblay Road, Downstreet Housing and Community Development, which owns the park, notified residents that the issue was being addressed.
Downstreet facilities manager Bernie Woolums, in a March 29 email to tenants of the park wrote that he is working with John Grenier of Grenier Engineering PC on the failed septic system.
“The septic system is undergoing a complete redesign, when the design is complete, I have contractors ready to begin construction of the new system. While the engineering designs are being done, Downstreet will be contracting to have the septic system pumped out and hauled away by a local contractor. This will continue until the new system has been installed and certified for use. This process will take time to complete, but please rest assured that I am focused on this project to ensure its completion,” Woolums wrote.
In an interview with The Valley Reporter, Woolums said that there are 29 lots in the park and currently there are 26 units. He said that there are two leach fields, the upper one that has failed and a lower one. He has shunted all of the effluent to the lower field for the time being and will have the septic tanks (which hold 12,000 gallons) pumped as necessary to avoid overloading the working leach field while the upper one is being repaired.
Julie Curtain, Downstreet’s interim CEO, said that Downstreet does have reserve funds for capital expenses such as fixing a leach field.
“We have relatively healthy reserves, and we’re in the process of getting estimates for replacing the leach field,” Curtain said.
“Our hope is that the cost of this won’t fall to the tenants. That is our hope, but we need to know how much it’s going to cost. We don’t think it’s likely, but if the costs exceed the reserves, we’d have to consider whether we need to increase rents,” Curtain added.
Downstreet director of property management Liz Genge explained that there are state guidelines requiring that their tenants receive 60-day notices of planned rent increases. She said that the lots currently rent for $294 a month.
“We typically notify people of proposed rent changes at the end of October with new rates taking place for January. Everybody starts with a full-year lease and goes month to month. Rent increases are uniform for all tenants. The rent increases are generally a percentage. The state Agency of Commerce and Community Development publishes an amount that mobile home parks are allowed to increase the rents. If tenants want to grieve the increase, there’s a process for that as well,” Genge said.
She said that lot rent includes capital reserve contributions, plowing, wastewater, streetlights and garage.
“I believe we have enough money in the reserves to cover the cost of replacing this leach field. We’re going to be in touch with our residents early and frequently. We’re committed to making sure there are resources available to pay for this,” Genge added.
Curtain clarified that Downstreet used to be known as the Central Vermont Community Land Trust and noted that that organization changed its name a number of years ago.