Northbay Biz | December, 2015 Issue –
The county comes together in rebuilding, disaster relief, ongoing success and progress.
After the initial panic, excitement, sirens and headlines, the exhilaration of coming together to help others eventually fades, and the people on whose turf an emergency occurs are left to the slow process of rebuilding. So it is in the city of Napa in the aftermath of the 2014 South Napa Earthquake.
“When you’re dealing with a disaster,” says Napa Mayor Jill Techel, “things are happening very quickly. You have a lot of aid; you have a lot of people helping. When it’s over and you have to rebuild and recover the costs, there’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of background work and a lot of details and data that have to be gathered. There are books of material and information you have to put together to access FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds and move forward. That isn’t always the piece we hear about.”
Nor is it the fun part, but it’s an added piece of work, along with normal operations, that Napa officials and employees are dealing with as recovery continues to move forward.
The post office building in Napa has been listed for sale, as the repairs will exceed the funds available to the US Postal Service. “We’re not sure who’ll be interested in buying,” says Techel, “but it’s a positive step. We wish we could repair it, but that’s not an option.”
Techel says she’s pleased that, after the quake, property values didn’t go down, and people are still interested in investing in downtown Napa. “This is a very unique and wonderful business opportunity, right in the center of Napa,” she says.
Other buildings are being repaired as well. The Alexander Square building is done and Carpe Diem Wine Bar is opened again. The Goodman Library and Historical Society now has a contract for its first phase of repair: putting a cage over the parapet on the top so engineers can more accurately determine what the next step will be. “That work is expected to be done in the spring,” the mayor says, adding that, “we’re getting very good at knowing how to secure buildings.”
An example of the difficulties that can arise include the length of time it took to raise the estimated $167,000 necessary to stabilize Napa Self Storage so renters could retrieve their possessions. Techel explains that FEMA declined to support the recovery, as the structure wasn’t a dwelling. Instead, over the course of the year, enough money was accumulated through contributions from unit tenants, the Community Relief Fund and the self-storage company itself, so unit renters will now be able to retrieve their belongings.
“You just have to understand that there are steps,” says Techel, “and to ensure no one can cheat them, FEMA has a lot of rules and regulations. It’s very cumbersome, but the alternative is to not have them—and that would be much worse.”