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CBS 8 helps Escondido reptile sanctuary with high sky-high SDG&E bill

EcoVivarium reached out for help after facing a $12K power bill. CBS 8 is Working for You to get them help.

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — A local animal rescue is behind on bills and has a little more time to pay them off. 

EcoVivarium in Escondido says the pandemic caused them to get behind on bills, but they were only given six months to pay off a sky-high electric bill.

The nonprofit reached out to others for help but couldn't get much done until CBS 8 got involved.

EcoVivarium said it's had to alternate its heat lamps to reduce its electricity costs, but the sanctuary is still facing an astronomical SDG&E bill and needs your help.

“They radiate their heat up to the level above them. It doesn't give them the ideal, but for the half day, we do it and switch it cuts out that power,” said Susan Nowicke, Executive Director, Vivarium.

Still, she faced an $11,697.41 SDG&E bill due on Jan. 20. 

Nowicke says the bills started mounting during the pandemic when the nonprofit was forced to close. That led to a $44,000 unpaid electric bill. 

In Dec., they received a 15-day shutoff notice.

Through a payment plan, they agreed to pay $6,000 over six months on top of the nearly $6,000 current electric bill.

EcoVivarium launched a GoFundMe and reached out to CBS8 for help.

“There's so much we have to offer, they [animals] have to offer, and giving up is not an option,” said Nowicke.

Thursday morning, CBS 8 contacted SDG&E, who sent this statement:

Since the start of the pandemic, SDG&E has been communicating and working continuously with customers who struggle to pay their past due bills, including small businesses like EcoVivarium. That ongoing dialogue resulted in a structured payment plan to help this particular business. As a result, it’s not currently at risk of disconnection. We remain committed to finding solutions for customers who are still struggling to recover financially from the pandemic’s economic impacts.

A few hours after we contacted SDG&E and after we visited with the reptiles, Nowicke heard from SDG&E with some good news.

They agreed to allow her to repay the outstanding debt over five years instead of six months, dropping her bill from the original $12,000 per month down to $7,500.

It's better, but still a struggle for this non-profit that is trying to recover. Ecovivarium will also be required to pay in full on time every month. 

“Thank you, thank you, you guys rock,” said Nowicke.

Nowicke knows she still has a steep bill to pay and hopes you can help as we did.

“If I stand in a corner with a cup in my hand or go knocking door-to-door, I will do it. I'm not too proud to fight for these animals,” said Nowicke.

Since the fundraiser is considered a Paypal charity, the funds raised will not be available for use until the end of Feb., with the power bill being due on Feb. 2. 

The company is now asking donations be sent to this site here.

To learn more about EcoVivarium and donations, click here.

At CBS 8, we are always Working for You and our San Diego community. If there is something you would like us to investigate, please share your idea here or email us at workingforyou@cbs8.com.

WATCH RELATED: Are natural gas prices really behind recent SDG&E rate hikes? (Jan. 2023).



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