No power for park residents Santa Nella mobile homes could be in dark for weeks, even months

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 4, 2013 

It will be weeks to 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 this 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.

The 33-trailer mobile home park on Jupiter Street had an abandoned trailer catch fire Aug. 12. The fire also damaged a power pole and transformer as well as the paneling residents needed for electric service.

Pacific, Gas & Electric has said it cannot help replace the paneling because it 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. North said the county estimates an $80,000 price tag on the panels.

"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 who are 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."

Martinez is sharing a generator at a cost of $20 a day. She said she's constantly making decisions on when she can wash clothes, whether she can leave lights and electric gadgets on while she is washing and guessing how much power the family sharing the generator is using at any given time. The generators are not used during the night.

North said the county is concerned that the cords to the generators, which are being stretched across the roadways, are a safety hazard because they are too thin. North did not have an answer for what residents can do instead of using the generators.

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

"If the money was somehow available, it would take time to produce the panels."

— Mike North, Merced County management analyst

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

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