REEDLEY – The strength of community was the theme of the hour at the most recent Greater Reedley Chamber of Commerce event, “After Hours with the City,” as Reedley’s municipal leaders discussed the hardships and triumphs experienced by residents over the last year.
A quarterly event organized by the chamber as a way to connect residents and business owners with their city government officials, the latest iteration of what has also been named “Coffee with the City” took place in the early evening on Jan. 25 as a way to reach individuals who may not be available in the morning hours.
To start, City Manager Nicole Zieba addressed the difficulties the city has been through, both recently with the quadruple-homicide of members of the Bonds family and throughout last year with the discovery of an illegal biochemical lab operating at 850 I St.
“I want to get serious for just a minute with you, because our small little town, our community, has gone through a lot over the past year and a half, and if you want to add in … let’s just say the difficulty in the city hasn’t stopped since the pandemic,” Zieba said.
However, Zieba credited the residents of Reedley for the ways in which they have supported one another, and said that Reedley is “an incredibly resilient” community for going through what she called the traumatic events of the illegal lab and to “still be functioning every single day.”
Regarding the quadruple-homicide, Zieba said “this little town will get through this like it’s getting through the illicit Chinese lab, like it has gotten through the Baskin (Robbins) attempted murders, like it has gotten through all the stuff that towns have to go through. It’s an amazingly resilient town.”
Zieba brought along Chief of Police Joe Garza, City Engineer Marilu Morales and Community Development Director Rodney Horton to talk about current events. The department heads also answered questions from residents regarding the police department’s ongoing homicide investigation, road construction and commercial development.
Garza addresses homicide investigation
Garza addressed the ongoing homicide investigation, but also explained that he cannot share too much information in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.
Garza and Zieba both commended the prosecutor from the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office who has been working with Reedley police on the investigation, and said that she has practically been living in Reedley for the last two weeks.
Additionally, Garza spoke about the officers and detectives on his staff, and said that he is incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication they have put into this investigation.
“In the 36 years that I’ve been here in Reedley, we’ve never experienced anything like this,” Garza said. “This is a tragic situation that happened to our community members, but one thing I can say (is) I can praise my officers and our detectives for everything that they’re doing.”
The investigation is far from over, and Garza said there will most likely be more search warrants served in the future.
“We are for the most part done collecting evidence at the home where this occurred, but we are pretty confident that some stuff has been moved around town, and we are actively seeking that out,” Garza said. “That’s where we need the community’s assistance, because someone has seen something, someone has heard something in conversations, and that’s really what we need.”
Garza said that if a resident has any detail they can share with the police department, they should do so, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to them. What may be just a small piece of information to one individual could be instrumental in helping the department piece together the investigation.
Residents can submit information anonymously via the English tip line at 559-356-8690 or the Spanish tip line at 559-246-4183.
Morales, Horton address department processes
Morales, the city engineer, spoke about the ongoing construction projects in the city and thanked the community for their patience with the road work.
When Zieba introduced Morales to the crowd, she said that Morales is the best city engineer she has ever worked with. Zieba credited Morales for the work she had done in securing federal grants for road work over the last four years she has worked for Reedley, and said they’ve now run into the non-issue issue of receiving grants for more projects than they can complete at one time.
Morales also answered community questions about why some roads receive more attention than others. Most residential streets do not see road repairs, for example, because federal funding does not allow for it. The city targets roads they can get federal funding for, because they only have to pay just over 11% of the total cost when they have that funding.
However, some residential alleyways that are severely deteriorated may be eligible for repairs, thanks to grants funded through Fresno County’s Measure C tax, Morales said. That is why some residents may have nicer alleyways than neighborhood streets.
To wrap up the meeting, Horton touched on the housing and commercial development applications his department has seen over the last year, and said that residents can expect movement on these projects within the next few years.
Horton specifically addressed how proud he is of his department. He said that applications that take a year to move through approval with the city of Fresno only take a month with his department.
“Our edge in this city is that we are small and flexible. … We get it done down here, we don’t mess around, and that is something that I am very, very proud of,” Horton said. “We try to do what we can to work with people to get them to ‘yes.’ … We want to be the place that people want to come to to open up their business and start developing their legacy.”