Taps will stay on in mobile home community

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY ó Water will keep flowing for residents of Circle Drive and Matika Villa, a Salisbury city official said Tuesday.
ěWe worked with the county to find a way to keep the water on,î said Jim Behmer, director of Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. ěWater will not be turned off this Friday at these two neighborhoods.î
The city previously warned residents that if landlord Tim Smith doesnít pay his outstanding water bill, it may shut off the service in the two mobile home neighborhoods at the end of the month. Residents then would have between 30 and 45 days before eviction. But Behmer said Tuesday that Salisbury will receive part of rent payments on all 165 mobile homes once they are seized by the county, allowing the water to stay on.
Smith, who owns Rubber One Recycling on Peach Orchard Road, said June 2 that he owed about $50,000 on his water bill.
ěIt was evident on the water side that the property owner was not going to settle up the account,î Behmer said Tuesday. ěHe had made one more payment.î
County officials told the Post he owed more than $180,000 in property taxes earlier this month, and County Attorney Jay Dees said Tuesday he has made ěa small paymentî or two since then.
Rowan County has already begun seizing rents paid by residents of Circle Drive on U.S. 29. It is now beginning the process for Matika Villa on Airport Road.
The mobile home park residents will pay their rent to the county instead of to Smith. Their landlord cannot evict them as long as they pay rent to the county.
City and county officials met Monday to formalize an agreement that will give the city $35 of each rent payment to go toward Smithís water bill. Another $8 from each Circle Drive payment will pay for recycling and garbage services.
Smith did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
With the help of city staff members and Spanish-speaking interpreters, county officials went out to Matika Villa on Tuesday afternoon to notify the residents that their water will stay on.
Yesenia Magana, a neighborhood resident, said she was ěso happyî to hear the news.
ěI was like, ëWhat am I going to do? Where am I going to take a shower?í î she said.
Magana lives with her boyfriend, 1-month-old daughter and father-in-law. She said they were planning to move if the water was shut off, but it would be difficult to find somewhere to go.
Some residents said Tuesday that Smith had assured them things would be fine.
ěHe always told us that it was going to be okay, that he was going to pay for the water bill,î Magana said.
Maria Pina, who lives down the street, said through an interpreter that Smith told them ěeverything was fixed and he had paid for part of it.î
She and her husband, Gabriel Gonzales, said they feel good knowing they will have water service. They happily signed the notice of attachment saying they will be paying rent to the county.
ěWe Spanish people, we pay,î Magana said.
Monthly rent ó $210 for Circle Drive and $250 for Matika Village ó is supposed to include water service. Residents told the Post they thought Smith was paying the water bill all along.
Smith said earlier this month that a former employee embezzled $150,000 from him last year. No one was charged.
He also said he plans to pay his debts as soon as he can and doesnít want his tenants to suffer.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.