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Rising water rates worry homeowners

FLORENCE, Ky. (Rich Jaffe) -- Residents on fixed incomes said rising water prices in their communities may end up forcing them out of their own homes.

Local 12 continues to search for answers as to why water rates inside a group of mobile home communities were rising so quickly during the summer of 2014.  Some of the residents fear losing their homes to the bills.  The owners of Beechwood Mobile Home Park in Ft. Mitchell said they and water district officials believe a huge water leak underneath the property was responsible for sky rocketing water bills for the residents.

Right after Local 12 aired that story the phones and Facebook started lighting up with similar concerns and issues from people in multiple other mobile home parks owned by the same company.  While the issues were the same, according to the owners, the answers were a little different.

Sue Gibson's lived at the Heartland Mobile Home Park for 17 years.  On a fixed income, she said she now fears she may lose her home to rising water rates.

She told Local 12, "I conserve on everything.  One load of wash a week and I don't understand it.  Don't leave my water running, don't understand why I'm having to pay $109.84 a month for something I'm not using."

As of August 2014, the minimum water and sewer bill at Heartland has gone up to $92.84 a month.  Add storm water and garbage collection and that's $109.84, a total residents don't understand.

Sue said, "It makes for a lot of sleepless nights because I know that I'm gonna eventually have to leave my home and I can't."

Owners of the park, SSK Communities, said they recently added a $16.99 catch up fee to the bills to cover county water and sewer increases but they didn't notify the residents.

Nathan Smith of SSK explained, "We're by no means making money on the water.  Never have and nothing would make us happier than for the water bill to go down because this is very concerning to us.  Because we know the residents have a certain amount of money to spend on the utility on any property.  It's part of their income and it's always been concerning to us."

Homeowner Adele Nichols said, "Last month all of a sudden they raised it to $9,548 minimum per household."

Owners said in Florence at Mosby's Pointe recent increases have been caused by the fact that there too, they're trying to catch up with the cost of water and sewer which up until recently was never a separate bill.

Nichols worries that, "There's a lot of good people in this community that cannot afford to pay this kind of money out and it's just very upsetting that you see an older person on a little wheelchair say, 'I don't know what I'm gonna do, I may have to leave here and I don't know where I'm going because I cannot keep affording to pay these prices.'"

Local 12 checked with the Water District and Sanitation.  They told Local 12 the average high usage cost for a home of four people was about $40 a month for water and $42 for sewage.  So the mobile home park rates might indeed seem high.  But Nathan Smith said SSK's been subsidizing the costs in the parks for a long time.  In fact he said last year alone the company lost $73,000 on the water and sewer bills at the Heartland Mobile Home Park.

He said they've been trying to gradually bring the bills up to speed.  SSK Communities owns 28 properties across the area.  SSK officials plan to join Beechwood residents Tuesday, September 2 when they will walk the park to find the source of a leak that's reportedly losing 35,000 gallons of water a day. 

Local 12 will be there and we'll update the story for you.

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