City council listens to emotional residents

There was a tremendous amount of emotion, anger, and sadness at the Madera City Council meeting.


Because the meeting was held the night immediately following the terrible fire in the Fresno River, completely destroying two houses and damaging two others on Riverview Drive, residents wanted solutions and answers during Wednesday’s meeting.


During the public comment portion of the meeting, the first person to speak was Madera City Manager, Arnoldo Rodriguez. He explained about the large homeless population in the river, and that the Governor of California had previously stated that the City could not relocate these populations during the pandemic.


Rodriguez explained the measures that had been taken during this year, and that for four miles of the river, they had removed 136 tons of trash just this year. On their agenda is to hire a private contractor to remove the trash in the river.


As part of his presentation, Rodriguez said that just 20 minutes ago, the Fish & Wildlife informed him they could start removing brush and take it down to the river bottom.


The river bottom is not owned by the City, but by the individual home owners. However, the City has now secured an emergency permit to plow down the bottom of the river. Beginning immediately, they will be working on getting this problem under control.


After Rodriguez spoke, Chief Matthew Watson of CAL Fire/Madera City Fire explained about getting a 1602 permit to plow down the river bottom. The process takes two-and-a-half years to get this permit.


Watson explained that there are three fire stations in Madera, and the fire on Tuesday night had flame lengths of 30 feet high and 77 personnel were on the scene to fight the fire, including resources from other counties.


Following Watson, Madera Chief of Police, Dino Lawson spoke. He expressed his sincere sorrow to the homeowners affected, and explained that he had no idea how they felt, but he understands their frustration. The city is trying to deal with the homeless problem, and as soon as the governor’s order was lifted, they started working. They are now working diligently to get the homeless moved.


By law, the city has to post 72 hours before the removal process. Lawson said that just yesterday (Tuesday) code enforcement were posting these notices. “We are clearing the brush. We are NOT going to let this happen again.”


Again, Arnoldo Rodrigues spoke to the mayor about grant monies they would use to clean up the Fresno River area. “We want to make the trail a better place. We owe it to the community to do a better job.”


When the City officials were finished speaking, the public comments time was open for anyone who wanted to speak on any subject. The mayor re-iterated that the council would not be able to act or respond on anything that is not on the agenda.


Many people from the community spoke concerning their safety, and their frustration about what they deemed was a lack of responsibility on the part of the City.


It was emotional; there was anger, and there was sadness. Those who spoke vented their feelings. Most of the ones who spoke on this subject were residents of Riverview Drive between Orchard Avenue and Central, where the fire occurred.