End in sight for illegal Reedley biolab

EPA to clean up remaining materials from location, pick up the $150,000 tab for removing chemicals

(Darren Fraser)
(Darren Fraser)
Darren Fraser
Published January 11, 2024  • 
10:00 am

REEDLEY – The city’s long-standing nightmare with the illegal biolab discovered at 850 I Street is finally drawing to a close.

City Manager Nicole Zieba informed the city council at its Jan. 9 meeting that, beginning Jan. 15 or 16, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin removing the remaining laboratory chemicals from the location.

“These are typical lab chemicals left in the facility,” Zieba said.

The agency gave a two-week window to complete the cleanup, though Zieba expects the work will be finished before then. The EPA is paying for the cleanup, which Zieba said cost roughly $150,000.

“The EPA said two weeks only because they don’t know the extent of the chemicals in the building,” Zieba said.

She added that after the EPA completes the cleanup, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food and Drug Branch – the California version of the FDA – will remove and destroy the numerous illegal pregnancy and COVID-19 tests remaining in the building.

HOMERUN FOR CAMACHO PARK

In other news, Reedley Community Services Director Sarah Reid informed council about the grant the city recently received for improvements to the Camacho Park baseball fields. Reid said Reedley applied for funding in 2001. The city applied for four grants with no success. However, two months ago, the state informed the city funding for park improvements was available.

“It was before or after Christmas we learned we were awarded a little over $4 million for the project,” Reid said.

Reid said Camacho Park is one of the last city’s spaces with an aging infrastructure. The Camacho Park Project will include the construction of a walking path, group picnic area, restroom, signage and public art. The funding will also go towards renovating the three baseball and softball fields, the existing restroom and the concessions stand. The funding will also be used to update the park’s lighting to LEDs.

The design phase for the project is expected to last from 2024 to 2025. Reid said construction will last from 2025 through 2026. The city hopes to have a grand opening in February 2027.

Because field space at the park is limited, construction will work around the Little League and Junior Giants baseball seasons. The city’s baseball programs kicked off this month. Early registration began Jan. 8. Registration continues through Feb. 19.

Reid said the number of players in the city’s Little League has decreased recently. To generate more interest, Reedley will offer three leagues. The Tiny Tots league is for kids ages 3-4. The Mini Ball league is for kids 5-6 and Little League is for kids 7-12.

“We need to capture kids early,” said Reid. She added there will be baseball clinics at the park for the younger players.

NEW ADDITION TO RPD

(Darren Fraser)

Reedley Police Chief Jose Garza introduced the newest member of the Reedley Police Department Ashleigh Lopez. A Dinuba native and Reedley resident, Lopez has been with the department for two weeks. She recently completed a field training program.

In his introduction, Garza said Lopez has proven herself to be an officer of exceptional dedication and skill. She is also only one of two female officers on the force.

Lopez earned her A.S. degree in administration of justice from College of Sequoias. She received a B.S. in criminal science from the California State University Los Angeles.

“I knew I wanted to be a police officer since I was 10,” Lopez said.

Lopez said she hopes to explore other opportunities within the department, including advancing to detective.

“I want to do a little of everything,” she said. “I like trying new things.”

REEDLEY’S ROOTS BECOME HISTORICAL LANDMARK

Kenneth Sech of the Fresno County Historical Landmarks and Records Advisory Committee informed the council that the commission approved the city’s application to recognize the site of the old Smith’s Ferry and Hotel as a county historical landmark. The commission approved the application on Nov. 28.

According to Kech, James and Martha Smith established the ferry and hotel in 1855 – 33 years before the founding of the city. Kech said the Smith ferry crossing, which was located near the site of Olson Avenue Bridge, was the most important crossing on Kings River before the crossing closed in 1874.

In 1884, the hotel, which had been abandoned, became the first residence of the Thomas Reed family. Reed built a second residence where Reedley College now stands. Kech said in 1888, Reed deeded half an interest in the town site to the Southern and Pacific Railroad, which resulted in the founding of the town of Reedley.

And since its founding, the town only continues to grow. Also during the meeting, Reedley City Council adopted multiple resolutions associated with a new housing development near Frankwood and Lilac Avenues. The project consists of six, two-story townhome duplexes. The developer told the council he hopes to break ground on the project this August.

Darren Fraser
Reporter