Power still a ways off for Santa Nella community

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 8, 2013 

— It will be weeks or months before power can be restored to residents of a mobile home community in Santa Nella that had electric service wiped out in a fire last month.

"If the money was somehow available, it would take time to produce the panels. Best-case scenario, we're still a couple months out," Merced County Management Analyst Mike North said.

An abandoned trailer caught fire at the 33-trailer mobile home park on Jupiter Street on Aug. 12.

The fire damaged a power pole and transformer as well as panels that residents needed for electric service.

Pacific, Gas & Electric Co. has said it cannot help replace the panels because that is considered the property owners' responsibility.

According to tenants, only nine of the 33 owners have agreed to work together to pay for new panels. Many landlords at the park have not been reached.

North said the county is in the process of contacting the landlords and working toward a solution. He said that the county estimates the cost to replace the panels at about $80,000.

"Some landlords are willing to pay for their share, but the panels are one unit so it's hard without the others," North said. "We can't provide county dollars. This is a private property matter."

North said the county is working with Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, to identify state funding that may assist the residents.

On Aug. 22, county officials met with the mobile home park's residents. North said people expressed frustration at being without electric service for so long.

Diana Martinez is one of several residents living without a permanent hookup to Pacific Gas & Electric's services. She said she was not impressed by what officials told her at the meeting.

"I think they were just sugar coating it because the media was there," Martinez said. "I don't have my life."

The county is offering Section 8 housing as a temporary solution to renters and families with children. Martinez said she's not eligible because she owns her trailer.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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