Longtime residents of the Hoback RV Park, who initially faced end-of-the-year eviction by property owner Crowley Capital, remain worried that the company’s latest solution to allow them to stay until May is not feasible.
In a communication sent to the Jackson Hole News&Guide, affected residents say their landlord refuses to directly respond to their questions and concerns, and they appealed to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners to help resolve the septic system issue they say underlies the problem.
Parts of Hoback Junction have long suffered from poor drinking water quality, and the area is experiencing a prolonged rise in nitrates in groundwater, which poses a health hazard to residents who depend on well water. Crowley Capital was found to be in violation of county and state codes due to the RV park’s failing septic system, and so committed to a new smaller system that would accommodate fewer RV tenants.
In a Nov. 19 email to residents, it said some would have to leave, and gave them until Dec. 31 to depart.
RV park residents publicized their plight, including through the Jackson Hole Daily, which reported on it in late November. Crowley Capital then offered a solution Thursday, in an unsigned press release from Hoback RV Park’s gmail account, that allowed residents to stay through May, but only if they’re able to connect to individual septic and water systems.
Park residents say their landlords are battling the issue out in the press, applying what they see as a public relations Band-Aid.
“We are disheartened that many of our attempts to reach Crowley Capital with questions or concerns have been ignored,” the residents’ statement, bearing the names of several Hoback RV Park residents, said, “and that proposed solutions have played out in the newspaper — a move seemingly meant to placate the public rather than help us. They have not asked for our feedback, and they have repeatedly and falsely claimed that December rent will be free, even though they have retained all of our payments for a deposit and first and last month’s rent.”
Crowley’s Thursday press release reads: “As water and sewer to these sites will be discontinued by December 31, 2020, tenants will have the ability to contract directly with Macy’s Services to provide individualized RV septic and water services. Based on quotes from Macy’s, if tenants coordinate weekly pump outs and water refills, the cost per RV will be approximately $340 per month. As a result, a tenant’s new combined monthly occupancy expense will be slightly less than the current rent of $650 per month.”
But tenants say individualized services won’t work for everyone, and they worry tanks and water lines may freeze the winter. They say they have not heard explanations about how water and sewage will be managed “to ensure we will not have to ration water in order to cook, drink, bathe and clean.”
They also say individualized systems will cost more.
“The individuals are going to take more time” to service, Dwight Reppa, owner of Macy’s Services, told the Jackson Hole Daily on Friday. “This is much more labor-intensive than if we were just pumping a tank. We will have to go from trailer to trailer and hook up and pump the trailers.”
But Reppa disagreed with the residents about the overall cost, clarifying to the Daily on Friday evening that the individualized systems will actually save the residents money. He said it’s possible to outfit every trailer with separate systems, but other materials might be needed.
Reppa said that, to make it cheaper, residents could coordinate the days when trailers are pumped. Either way, though, he thinks one of his 16 employees will be on site every week between now and May.
“This isn’t exciting me,” he said, “but we are going to try and help them out.”
Crowley sees his solution as way to allow residents to stay until the weather warms up without continuing to use the failing system. But residents feel put out and at a disadvantage, saying they “are paying the price for a crime we did not commit.”
“Crowley Capital operated a septic system that polluted this beautiful place we call home,” they said, “but it was a system that was permitted by and now subject to enforcement action by the county and the state.”
The signatories — Cindy Zamora, Jeffrey Meehan, Milton and Catherine Powell, Lance Bauer, Mary Talisman, Patrick Kehoe and Inanna Reistad — therefore petitioned the Board of County Commissioners “to intervene on our behalf and ensure that we have a viable solution.”
In the communication, the residents asked county commissioners to require Crowley, as part of its settlement for the septic violations, to sign a contract with Macy’s to pump the on-site septic instead of requiring individual systems.
Reached by phone Friday, Commissioner Luther Propst said he doesn’t want to live in a world where residents have to choose between clean drinking water or housing.
“It shouldn’t be an either/or,” he said.
Propst expects more discussion about the issue Monday.
Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or email@example.com.