NorthIowaToday.com is told workers showed up unexpectedly and installed water meters under some residents’ homes at Gracious Estates, and the bills soon followed, despite some leases stipulating that water is included with lot rent.|Gracious Estates residents showed up at the last City Council Mason City in meeting and told story after story about unexpected water bills showing up from the management at Gracious Estates. Councilman Max Weaver had recommended to the residents that they address the Council to get help with their issue. “This is terrible. One of the worst stories of bilking I’ve ever heard,” Weaver said.
NorthIowaToday.com contacted Kathy Van Horn, a resident of Gracious Estates, to find out what was going on with the water situation. “We are all getting charged outrageous amounts,” says Van Horn, a Gracious Estates resident. “Some people are paying over $180 a month for water, just one or two people in the home.”
Kathy, and at least one other resident at the Council meeting, says her lease stipulates that water is included in the lease and she was never billed for water before. She says one day this Spring she came outside and there was a man under her home installing a water meter, who had come unannounced. “I got my first bill shortly thereafter.” The bills have ranged from $30 a month to well over $100 a month since then, she says. “The meters are not read accurately or are just estimated, or sometimes the management will just try to put you on a fixed rate per month” Kathy says.
NorthIowaToday.com has learned that there is one main water meter at Gracious Estates, and the City bills the Gracious Estates property owner for the water that goes through that meter. Now, most homes at Gracious Estates have had water meters installed, which Gracious Estates management then uses to bill the residents.
Mason City officials at the Council meeting heard the residents’ pleas for help and are in the beginning stages of taking action.
City Councilman Scott Tornquist wrote in a memo to Mayor Eric Bookmeyer and other Council members that “it might be kind of interesting to compare the amount the city has billed Gracious Estates the past six months vs the sum of water bills paid by the residents to Gracious Estates during the same period.”
Councilman Don Nelson, in a memo to City Administrator Brent Trout and City Attorney Tom Meyer, said “We just can’t ignore their pleas for help.”
Mayor Eric Bookmeyer calls the situation at Gracious Estates “a serious concern that deserves attention from city staff in an expedient manner.”
Some may ask “why don’t they just move out of Gracious Estates if they don’t like it?” The answer is that some of the homes would be very expensive to move, and some of those residents are on tight incomes.
NorthIowaToday.com attempted to contact Gracious Estates manager Melissa Noland during business hours on Friday, November 19, but the phone was not answered and our voice message was not returned.
NorthIowaToday.com will continue to investigate this situation and bring any updates to this website.