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Residents Displaced After July 4th Fire Set to Return Home this Summer

by on April 23, 2014 11:40 AM

Several residents who lost their homes in a July 4th barbecue fire are expected to return to the apartment complex this summer.

A new building at Waupelani Heights in the 400 block of Waupelani Drive is under construction and expected to be open for residents in July, according to Andy Haines, vice president of S&A Homes.

At least 10 of the 40 residents displaced from the fire have expressed interest in returning, Haines says.

Haines says tenants who resided in the building before the fire be first in line to occupy the new units as long as they meet the income guidelines. For a family of three, the household income cannot be more than $42,000 a year.

"The tenants have been great. They've been very patient," Haines says. "Fortunately, no one was injured and it's only a building and it's something that can be rebuilt."

There were 19 units in the building that was heavily damaged in the fire. Thirteen units were lost. In all, the rebuild will cost roughly $1.9 million, Haines says. The new building will look nearly identical, but will include new appliances, carpet, cabinets and a sprinkler system. The old complex was built prior to a law mandating sprinkler systems.

Haines also acknowledged the community's support since the fire - from first responders extinguishing the flames to borough officials offering a tax break during construction to residents donating clothes and toys to victims.

We really appreciate the community's help. It was great to see a community to work together and help people out," Haines says. "Everybody really stepped up and showed what a great community this is."

In related news, State Farm insurance company, which insures Waupelani Housing, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. Middle District Court against Guen Scop Lee seeking $1.2 million plus legal fees.

In the suit, State Farm blames Lee for the fire saying it was his grill that sparked the blaze. The suit says, "damages were the direct and proximate result of the negligence and carelessness of the defendant." State Farm is seeking a jury trial.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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