SAN ANTONIO – Residents of a Northeast Side mobile home park have been without water for nearly a week.
The reason for the water outage at the Plaza Mobile Home Park at 811 Corinne Drive is the San Antonio Water System cut service because the owner owes several thousand dollars.
Residents discovered the problem last Thursday.
"I went to give my son an early bath, and no water," said Lisa Johnson, a tenant at the park since last June.
Johnson said she's kept current on her bills, paying $120 for water last month. Now she's shelling out more money to buy bottled water.
"The last two days we've spent about $25 for water," Johnson said.
Johnson and other residents went to park managers Pat Molina and Krista Cox to see what the problem was and quickly learned it wasn't their fault. They put the blame on the owner, Joseph Sandoval.
"We're the managers and he doesn't share anything with us. We do not know what to tell the tenants," Pat Molina said. "We collect all the water (payments) and deposit it into the water account and he's supposed to pay the bill from that, and he has not."
Molina and Cox said they moved to the mobile home park last year and were soon asked to take on the role of park managers.
When the water was cut off, they contacted SAWS and were informed the service was terminated for nonpayment.
"The last bill we received from him was $10,420.47, and that's not including the late fee charges," Krista Cox said. "All these payments that he's making are going to the past amount that's due, and that's what's making this balance where it is now."
Anne Hayden, a spokeswoman for SAWS, said it was a difficult situation, but the utility had no choice but to take action.
"The owner of the mobile home park, who is not a resident there, has not paid us since last year, except for a small payment recently," Hayden said. "This is a very large amount of money, and unfortunately we just can't continue to provide service without a payment. We would love to be able to maintain service, but if the person who owns the mobile home park isn't paying, that means everyone else in San Antonio has to make up the difference."
Sandoval's inability to stay current on his SAWS bill is not a new problem. Four years ago, SAWS cut off water to the mobile home park when Sandoval fell more than $9,000 behind on his bill. He did eventually make a payment but has had trouble keeping current.
"We've had issues with payment on this. We've been trying to collect for months, and even though there has been promises, there's been nothing paid," Hayden said. "We need to get a payment of approximately half of the amount owed and then we'll restore service and try to work out payment arrangements with the owner."
While the tenants are paying for a service they are not receiving, Hayden said there's not much they can do.
"The tenants are the ones that really suffer in this situation, and they're the ones we really regret this happening to," Hayden said. "Unfortunately it goes back to a large amount being owed, and we owe it to our other customers to try to ensure that this is collected."
To make things worse, the city's Code Enforcement Section has issued a notice of violation to Sandoval for not providing water for his tenants. If the situation is not resolved in 10 days, the city could begin forcing the residents to move from their homes.
Johnson said if that happens, she and her kids would likely end up on the street.
"We have no place to go, and I have two babies," Johnson said.
As they wait to see if Sandoval will keep his word and make a significant payment to get water restored, residents like Johnson and their managers are relying on bottled water for drinking and cooking and taking showers at a motel or truck stop.
Krista Cox said the whole situation is just heartbreaking.
"Words can't even explain it," Cox said. "You wake up every morning and try to use the bathroom, and you can't even flush the toilet. It's not right, and they shouldn't have to live like this."