City Manager working hard to improve Madera
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
This empty lot in front of Vallarta Supermarkets is slated to become the new home of Dutch Bros., much to the delight of many Madera residents.
Madera City Manager Arnoldo Rodriguez was born in Madera and grew up attending Madera schools so he knows a little about the city.
Rodriguez stopped by The Madera Tribune office last week to appear on the second season of The Madera Tribune Podcast, which can be heard on Spotify.
Rodriguez sat down with Sports Editor/Interim Editor Tyler Takeda to talk about some of the things he is working on and some of the things Madera can look forward to.
MT: What are some of the improvements you have done to the city, recently?
AR: “We’ve made good progress on a new water tank for the city of Madera. Geographically, it’s going to be located on the northeast quadrant of the community, but it will serve the entire community.”
MT: You said you were putting a lot of funding into improving sidewalks, why?
AR: “Whenever you have a sidewalk, it keeps pedestrians safe. You’re always trying to improve neighborhoods. People feel good when they see the city’s investment in their neighborhood. At the end of the day, it comes down to safety. We want to make sure the kids in town have a safe place to walk, especially to and from school, especially when you have inclement weather.”
MT: I heard that Big Lots was coming in to replace the Save mart Supermarket that left on Country Club Drive.
AR: “They are coming into town in the former Save Mart site. It was unfortunate that Save Mart closed, but we’re very excited we’re going to have a new tenant. One of the challenges we have in Madera, is we’re very short on variety and clothing stores. I think Big Lots will fill a huge void in our community.”
MT: We wrote a story last week about Boot Barn coming into the former Office Depot building, do you have any information of that?
AR: “One of the things I like to say is we all wear clothes in Madera, but we have few options where to buy it. We’re very excited. When Office Depot closed, it was a big blow to the community. At the same time, we’re just as excited we’re going to have Boot Barn. The demographics of Madera suit Boot Barn very well. It’s a great marriage for our community. It’s an ideal spot on Cleveland Avenue.”
MT: One of the things we can be excited about is rumors that Dutch Bros. is coming to Madera.
AR: “It’s going to be presented at the planning commission (which was held Feb. 8) They are going to consider the project and will have the ultimate say. The Dutch Bros is planned for the dirt lot on Country Club in front of Vallarta. The pad is vacant so it would not require the demolition of any buildings.
MT: On one hand, In-N-Out may be coming to Madera. However, that may cause the moving of Sugar Pine Smokehouse.
AR: “In-N-Out was also considered at the Planning Commission. In-N-Out’s proposal would require demolition of the existing Sugar Pine Smokehouse. If the planning commission takes action, it would take a couple of months. I’ve talked to Sugar Pine and they’ve expressed a desire to remain in business in Madera. That’s our goal. We’re going to do everything we can to help them identify a new home in town. That’s our plan. We want to keep local businesses in town.
“It’s a range of emotions; you never want to see a local business close. For civic pride, a lot of people in Madera have wanted an In-N-Out for a long time. They’ve also wanted a Dutch Bros. for a long time. It could be a big day for the planning commission.
(In-N-Out was continued to the next Planning Commission meeting on March 8)
MT: You wanted to talk about sewer and water rates.
AR: “We are currently in the process of reviewing the current sewer and water rates for the city. That will establish the rates for the next five years. The City of Madera was fortunate to receive $23 million from the American Rescue Fund. The city council has directed us to allocate 100 percent of that towards sewer and water improvements. It’s $23 million we don’t have to charge our customers for. That’s going to help mitigate potential increases. Things are more expensive than a year ago. The cost of fuel has gone up, significantly. Also, minimum wage has gone up. One of things we need to do is make sure we have sound infrastructure, minimize maintenance. This allows us to make improvements to the sewer system and the water system for the next five years. At the same time, the community is award that our goal is to minimize potential increases. There are some very minor increases slated. We did receive a huge shot in the arm.
MT: You have improvements slated for the city’s sewer and water system?
AR: “We have $43 million slated for improvements for our water system. We have $23 million slated for our waste water system. The community operates a waste water treatment plant in southwest Madera. The $23 million, the council gave us great discretion on how to use those funds. They recognized the need to invest in public infrastructure. They said we’re going to allocate 100 percent into that. We’re fortunate they did do that.
“One challenge the entire state is facing is Senate Bill 1383, which is going into effect now, which is for solid waste collection. Unfortunately, that will cause rates to rise a little bit. Across the board, the every city is struggling with this. We’re still in the process of reviewing that. We’ll be taking that to council. That’s unfortunate news because it’s going to hit our pocketbook. It’s enormous for the city to allocate $23 million just for public infrastructure.
MT: You recently received a grant for a new park. What else are you working with city parks?
AR: “The city did apply for $2 million for a park on Olive and Knox avenues. We’re very fortunate the state approved that. We’ll be building a brand new park. About 10 days ago, heard we were going to receive a $177,000 grant from the state to make some improvements to Town and Country Park. We’re pretty excited about that. We received a grant for slightly over half a million dollars. That’s going to assisting families that were negatively impacted by COVID for payment for sewer and water. We’re going through that process to identify the criteria. As soon as that’s available, we’ll get that out to the community. When you are talking some of these numbers, they are large numbers. For our community, a lot of these are big wins and are for improvements that need to be made. Material, labor and insurances costs have gone up. When you try to do something, things seem to get a little more expensive. That’s the challenge. Our budgets don’t necessarily increase, but the costs do.
“We have not broken ground on the park. We have not received the money, yet. We have a conceptual plan. It was largely planned by the people that live around the park. We held five community meetings and they told us what they wanted in the park. We put in the plans exactly what the community wanted. The next thing we do is sharpen our pencils to make sure that everything works out. We have $2 millions slated for that park. We’re excited to have it. That community deserves it. They have not experienced a lot of public parks in a long time and I think it’s long overdue.
MT: There are a lot of construction, but construction means more for Madera.
AR: “We have a downtown housing project that is nearly complete. That’s a $24 million project. The city was fortunate that about half of that came from a grant the city applied for, in collaboration with some of our partners. We have some active subdivisions, so the community may find some delays in the roads — on Tozer, on Pecan, on Stadium, on Cleveland and on Ellis and D. we’re excited. We ask the community to be patient. When you have large projects, sometimes they cause disruptions in our daily lives, like road closures. We have had some growing pains. When you are going through them, it’s tough. After the fact, I think people will say the city did a good job on that.
“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done at the city. The pandemic has been a challenge for all of us.
MT: When you took office, Madera’s city budget wasn’t so hot. Since then, you’ve helped the city become profitable.
AR: “The city has been in the black. When I came to the city, the city had had five straight years of a deficit budget. So far, we’ve had three years of a surplus budget. That means that our projected revenues exceed our projected expenses. That resulted in a couple of extra dollars. The takeaway from the community is the city is very well managed, fiscally prudent, haven’t spent a lot of our extra money. When you have a community of our size of the history of a few years prior to that has been challenging. We just want to make sure we’re stable. Some of the things people are seeing in the community are focused on cleaning it up. Hopefully, people will start to see capital projects that are needed in the community. Hopefully, we can bring some back some civic pride in Madera.”
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The Madera Tribune Podcast can be heard on Spotify and new episodes will be recorded weekly.