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Legislators propose bills to help Billings mobile home residents

Meadowlark continues with water problems
Meadowlark water.JPG
Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 00:03:01-05

Residents at the Meadowlark mobile home park in Billings continue to have dirty water, a boil order is in effect, they've had frozen and broken pipes, and the water has been shut down.

And now in the Montana Legislature, lawmakers have proposed bills they hope could help in the long run.

Last month's historic cold snap in Montana brought more problems to this Billings mobile home park.

About 20 pipes broke at the end of the year.

"Biggest thing is just the water shut offs, and, you know, not having water and it being turned off all night. Has caused a lot of stress out here for a lot of people," said Gary Deveraux, a Meadowlark resident.

Devereaux says it's the worst he has seen. The dirty water has been an issue for at least the last two years. And now he says crews are looking for a broken water main.

"At worst, it has caused massive damage throughout the park to their lines in our lines," Deveraux said.

But Deveraux and other residents are hopeful help is on the horizon thanks to two new bills being introduced by lawmakers in Helena. One deals with leasing.

"Length of leases from one month to one year prohibiting the landlord from requiring a tenant to make unnecessary upgrades," said Rep. Mike Yakawich, R-Billings.

The other bill would give trailer park residents the opportunity to buy their mobile home parks.

"Which would require mobile home park owners when they go to sell their communities to give residents a 60-day notice and the residents would get an opportunity to at least provide an offer," said Rep. George Nikolakakos, R-Great Falls.

Nikolakakos owns and has sold mobile home parks. He and Yakawich say the proposed legislation is aimed at being fair for both residents and property owners.

"Constituents are looking for a little bit of help," Yakawich said. "This kind of deal will encourage them. But we're trying to work on this not to infringe or to over-regulate the owners of the trailer park, but to try to find some common ground. "

But Deveraux has seen similar bills fail in previous legislative sessions.

He has concerns but he's hopeful.

"I really hope that they step up this time and give us an opportunity here," Deveraux said.

Josh Weiss, a spokesman for Havenpark Communities, which owns Meadowlark, says the company is positive toward legislation but needs to know the specific language before it can support a bill.

He also tells MTN News that it has installed new media filters and new tanks. Tests have shown clean water, and management hopes this solves the problem, he said.

Residents did not mention being aware of the new equipment.

As for the broken pipes, Weiss said Havenpark is responsible for underground pipes and residents are responsible for above-ground pipes.