McPherson is experiencing an influx of contract workers. Those contract workers are using recreational vehicles as housing.
As a result, there has been an RV overcrowding problem in McPherson mobile home and RV parks.
The overcrowding has lead to complaints and city zoning ordinance violations.
Some of these problems have included insufficient utilities for RVs, spacing issues and incorrect usage and sharing of sewer and electric facilities.
The city of McPherson and the park owners are in negotiations on how to alleviate problems as result of this influx.
McPherson Code Enforcement Official Edye Leslie said the situation was brought to the city’s attention when park residents began lodging complaints.
“Upon follow-up, we realized there was a problem,” Leslie said. “We approached all of the park owners and asked if they were willing to come on board and offer more temporary housing spaces.”
Leslie said such RV spaces are often used by out-of-area workers contracted by McPherson area industries.
“Some stay three or four months, some even up to a year,” Leslie said.
Despite the violations, Leslie said it was important for code enforcement to not detract from a positive negotiation process.
“Code enforcement doesn’t need to be the bad guy,” Leslie said. “It’s up to us to help, not just point our fingers, cite them, and say, ‘Fix it.’ You can’t present a problem without a solution.”
Derek Walden, who owns the mobile home park just southwest of the corner of Kansas Avenue and Hickory Street, said his experience working with the city had been positive and agreeable.
“I think Edye’s approach to take the time to contact the owners and invite them to come alongside to help clean up the city is very effective,” Walden said. “We’re working at obtaining financing so we can replumb the whole park. This will eliminate a lot of problems, including leaking problems we’ve had, and it’s encouraging.”
Walden said that, in regards to the spacing issues, older parks such as his weren’t built to such standards.
“I’d like to see a provision allowing the previously existing pad sites to be used,” Walden said. “If the current spacing requirements were implemented, we couldn’t use the pods.”
Walden said between his staff and the residents, work is underway to clean up the park.
“My interest,” Walden said, “is to continue improving the park.”
Doug Strawn, owner of Sundahl’s Park at the corner of South Kelly and South Hickory, said he was concerned about the cost of many of the upgrades.
Page 2 of 2 - “I haven’t had too many discussions with the city on this yet,” Strawn said, “but I guess there is a need for these projects in town. It would be nice for the Board of Public Utilities to bend off their rules, though. When it comes to electric, they want everything buried. A lot of cities string power poles to allow for power in these sorts of locations.”
Strawn said installation of underground power lines would require new easements, increasing the cost even more.
“We’ll have to see if we can get them to bend the rules on some of this,” Strawn said.
The city is currently considering financial incentives for dropping the expense for the park owners, including dropping the cost of a sewer hook up fee from $550 to $375 under a temporary license. A final decision hasn’t been made, but the city is considering having the temporary license last from 18 months to two years to allow time for park renovation work to be completed.
Randy Meyer, owner of Western Community Park at 131 South Taft, said work had already begun at his park.
“We’re in the process of having work done as we speak,” Meyer said. “We’ve got one site ready to go now, and three more on the way. My park manager got the permits, and right now we’re putting in RV pedestals and hiring a master electrician. We also rented a trencher last week. Within a week, we should be ready to go.”
The city commission will discuss the RV overcrowding situation and the progress made at their next regular Monday meeting at 8:30 a.m. at the McPherson Municipal Building, 400 E. Kansas Avenue.
Contact Jeremy Webster by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @WebsterSentinel.