Napa County officials scrambled Tuesday to address a growing raft of problems stemming from Sunday’s earthquake, even as predawn aftershocks offered a jarring reminder that immediate dangers have not yet passed.
The number of people forced from their quake-damaged homes increased Tuesday, as did the number of people without water. Overflowing debris bins were the most glaring examples of concerns about the county’s battered government structure’s ability to address short- and long-term issues wrought by the magnitude-6.0 temblor.
Government officials expressed confidence the region will qualify for federal assistance once they submit the application, which hinges upon a damage assessment that had yet to be finalized as of late Tuesday. But that aid — which could include access to low-interest loans — isn’t likely to come fast enough for people whose lives have been upended because of damage to their businesses and homes.
“The frustration is understandable, given what happened,” Napa City Councilman Alfredo Pedroza said. “The first (question) was, ‘Are we safe?’ But now it’s where the rubber meets the road and what services are available.”
The earthquake damaged numerous city and county government buildings, forcing officials to move offices, employees and services just so basic government functions can continue. Damage to the county’s administration building forced supervisors to move to the Sheriff’s Office south of town and to conduct future meetings at the offices of the transportation authority.
The county jail was slapped with a yellow tag restricting access, including a temporary halt to jail visitations, according to Supervisor Mark Luce, the board’s chairman. He said the county’s clerk had to move out of her office into a conference room and that probation officers were conducting business outside the Hall of Justice.
Luce said officials also are speeding up moving Health and Human Services employees to a new facility south of Napa, a move that already was planned prior to Sunday’s quake.
“Those are the kinds of make-shift things we’re having to do until we get people into more permanent facilities,” Luce said.
Nevertheless, he said he was “confident” county officials are “meeting basic needs.”
He also expressed confidence the region will meet the $51 million threshold in structural damages needed to qualify for federal aid. Luce said the county was still waiting on damage assessments from wineries and other entities Tuesday in order to complete the application.
Even then, such aid is not guaranteed. Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for aid after the Rim Fire scorched about 400 square miles on the edge of Yosemite National Park. But the state appealed the decision, and the Obama administration reversed the decision.
“It’s a political process. There’s a lot of partisanship,” Luce said. “Hopefully, we don’t get caught in that snag.”
More immediate concerns for government officials Tuesday included a backlog of 800 people in Napa who had requested building inspections. Napa City Manager Mike Parness said that residents who had earthquake damage that posed a threat to their health and safety could expect a visit from the city within hours.
“But if it’s, ‘Hey, I have a crack in my drywall,’ it may be two or three weeks,” Parness told council members prior to the panel voting for a resolution extending the local emergency.