Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

State health can’t fund emergency repair for Lanare

Folks in the southwest Fresno County town of  Lanare are riding out the heat wave with a 1970s water well that pumps out sandy drinking water and not much of it.

The town of 600 is caught in a familiar state bureaucratic maze, preventing it from getting public money to fix a newer well that broke down.

Help is not on the way despite the California Department of Public Health announcement this week of a plan to speed up funding for drinking water fixes.

Many other small towns in the San Joaquin Valley have hit a similar bureaucratic wall. And Lanare has had its own problems with public funding before.

Lanare is where a $1.3 million federal grant was used several years ago to build a water filtering plant. The town could not afford to run it, so the system was shut down within months of starting. No one assessed the town’s ability to pay for operating the system.

The town is slowly saving up money to pay off a debt that started at about $100,000. But now $10,000 placed in a reserve account to help pay off the debt must be used to repair the newer well.

The health department cannot issue emergency funding to cover the broken well, since the town has the old well.

The department earlier this week had announced the plan to speed up the use of about $455 million in federal funding, saying it would spend about $84 million as soon as possible.

The plan was ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has heard from many small San Joaquin Valley communities that have waited years for the funding.

Back in Lanare,  townfolk will spend the money they have been saving since 2010 for the well repair instead of using it to make payments on the debt.

Fresno heat and pets

I always worry about pets when it starts to get above 100 degrees and Tulare County has a nice tip sheet on how to keep pets safe in the heat.

Tips to Care for Pets and Other Animals During Extreme Heat

VISALIA, CA – During extreme heat, both agricultural animals and pets
are at risk of experiencing adverse reactions from the extreme heat.
HHSA Animal Control offers the following tips so that residents can keep
their animals healthy and safe this summer:

● Never leave pets in parked cars for any period of time: The
temperature in a car can reach 120° in a matter of minutes. If you see
an animal in a parked car during the summer call local animal control or
the police immediately.

● Every animal needs shade and water: Any animal that is outside
needs protection from the heat and sun, and plenty of fresh, cool water.

● Know and recognize the signs of heatstroke: Signs of heatstroke
include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, restlessness,
excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination,
profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, and

● If heatstroke occurs, take action immediately: Take the
following steps immediately to gradually lower their body temperature
and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
o Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area;
o Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest or
run cool water over them;
o Let them drink small amounts of cold water or lick ice cubes;
o Take your animal directly to a veterinarian.

● Limit exercise to early morning or evening hours on very hot
days: Remember that both asphalt and cement sidewalks get very hot.
These surfaces reach high temperatures, and can burn your pet’s paws.

● Pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears
are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer, and may require
sunscreen on nose and ear tips.

These safety tips are not a substitute for veterinary care. If a
heat-related illness occurs, contact your veterinarian immediately.

For more information about summer heat safety, visit the Humane Society website at

Valadao adds yet another hurdle to high-speed rail

Freshman Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, has erected yet another hurdle to construction of the California high-speed rail project.

Using his seat on the House Appropriations Committee, Valadao on Thursday won approval by voice vote of an amendment that says the federal Surface Transportation Board cannot take action on initial construction phases until the board has given final approval to the entire project. The practical effect would  be to stop initial construction for at least the foreseeable future, as a massive and necessary environmental impact study has not been completed for the entire project.

The federal board had previously ruled, in a 2-1 vote, that initial construction of the Bakersfield to Merced section of the project could proceed. The board’s majority sided with the California high-speed rail planners in determining that exempting the initial construction project from prior approval requirements would “minimize the need for federal regulation and reduce regulatory barriers.” That determination, though, did not amount to approval of the entire project.

“It is important that impacts of this project are considered in their entirety, and that due diligence reflects the entire project being pursued,” Valadao declared in a statement.

Valadao’s Surface Transportation Board amendment adds clout to another provision of the House transportation appropriations bill, which prohibits any funds from the bill from being used on the California project.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has already received some $3.5 billion in federal funds, and was not anticipating getting any more in Fiscal 2014. The high-speed rail language was included in a bill that, overall, provides $15.3 billion for an assortment of federal transportation.

The fate of either provision, though, remains very much up in the air, as Congress is not necessarily on track to give final approval to appropriations bills this year.


Real Estate: McCaffrey Homes wins top honor at Gold Nugget Awards

(Photo courtesy of McCaffrey Homes. The home builder received a Gold Nugget Grand Award for architectural excellence on June 5 for this Tribeca Plan 4 design at its The Heights in Loma Vista neighborhood in Clovis.)

McCaffrey Homes won a top honor for architectural excellence at this year’s Gold Nugget awards competition in San Diego on June 5.

The Fresno and Clovis home builder won a Grand Award for its Tribeca Plan 4 design, one of four floorplans available at The Heights at Loma Vista neighborhood in Clovis.

The Tribeca plan, which has 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms, was honored for its high energy ratings, use of side and rear yard spaces, and its street appeal.

“The home is rich in finish materials and feels substantially larger than it is,” the judges said. “Inside, the home has great character and lives large with an open floor plan, multiple indoor/outdoor relationships and an upper floor with generous-sized bedrooms.”

The builder also received four merit awards for the designs of the following homes:

  • The Chelsea, Greenwich and Tribeca plans at The Heights on Ashlan and Locan avenues.
  • Carnelian plan at The Gallery in Loma Vista on Ashlan and DeWolf avenues.

Visit McCaffrey Homes for more information.

Real Estate: Home and Jobs Summit to be held on Saturday at fairgrounds

First-time homebuyers, homeowners facing foreclosure and Fresno residents looking for a job are invited to a free housing and employment event at the Fresno Fairgrounds, 1121 S. Chance Ave., on Saturday.

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and the Housing Alliance of Fresno are holding a Homes and Jobs Summit from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration begins at 8 a.m.

The event will provide buyers will information about homeownership and their buying options in today’s market.

Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage can get facts about foreclosure and learn about alternatives to losing their homes.

Folks without jobs can also attend to learn about starting their own business or finding a job.

Hmong and Spanish translators will be on hand. No pre-registration is required.

Senate leader Steinberg confronts Vidak forces in 16th District race

UPDATE (June 28): The California Association of Realtors denies allegations by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others that its campaign finance reports in the 16th District Senate race were incorrectly filled out. “We think our reporting is accurate and transparent,” said Don Faught, the association’s president. Faught added that the group thinks Republican Andy Vidak is the strongest candidate in the race.

Check-marking the wrong box on a campaign finance form is not always cause for concern. But in a state Senate race that’s expected to be close and could tip the balance of power in Sacramento, details are everything.

On Tuesday, a supporter of Democratic Senate candidate Leticia Perez filed a complaint with the state, alleging that a real estate association backing Perez’s opponent Andy Vidak should have reported that its money is being used to oppose Perez.  Instead, the group reported that its money is being used to support Vidak.

The alleged misstep, while it may seem small, is drawing rebuke from the Senate’s biggest name, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat.

In a statement to The Bee on Tuesday, Steinberg took umbrage with the California Association of Realtors for not only mischaracterizing campaign expenditures but for supporting Vidak in the first place.

Perez, a Kern County supervisor from Bakersfield, is squaring off against Vidak, a Hanford farmer, for the seat vacated by Democrat Michael Rubio. If Perez loses the July 23 special election in the Fresno-Bakersfield area, the Democratic Party’s  two-thirds majority in the upper house would be weakened.

“Senate Democrats were already troubled by the misguided decision of the California Association of Realtors to oppose Leticia Perez with six-figure independent expenditures, but, now, the vitriolic and highly partisan smear campaign they’re waging against her represents a new low –- and appears to cross every legal line,” Steinberg said.

The trade association reported its latest political expense on Friday: a nearly $162,000 independent expenditure that brings the group’s total spending in the 16th District Senate race to more than $215,000.

Independent expenditures, unlike candidate contributions, don’t go directly to candidates, but are spent independently for or against the contenders. They face fewer restrictions than direct contributions.

The complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleges that the California Association of Realtors improperly reported that its money is being used to support Vidak. The complaint suggests that the group should have reported its money going to fight Perez.

Political mailers sponsored by the association appear to be quite critical of Perez. Neither the trade association nor the FPPC could be reached Tuesday to comment on whether the group had breached campaign finance rules.

The complaint was filed by Selma Democrat Doug Kessler, also the Region 8 director for the California Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party holds an enviable two-thirds majority in the state Senate, which allows the party to pass measures, such as taxes, without the support of Republican senators.  But the cushion is thin. Both Democrats and Republicans see the 16th District seat as a means to weaken the other’s hand.

Vidak nearly won the 16th Eistrict seat in last month’s primary election, but he came up just short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.


Real Estate: Construction at Mountain View Shopping Center in Clovis raises questions

Update: I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much flack for not including the cross streets of a construction project. My apologies. The Mountain View Shopping Center is located at Shaw and Fowler avenues. There, you’ve got it.

It wasn’t a problem of needing to be more accurate in my reporting as someone suggested below. The story is accurate. I just forgot to add the exact location.

Original: Construction crews are busy renovating the Mountain View Shopping Center in Clovis where Albertson’s grocery store once called home.

Curious residents and motorists have called the newsroom asking about what’s going in there. Here’s the scoop: :

  • Walmart Neighborhood Market, a small-scale grocery store, will move into the Albertson’s space becoming the center’s anchor tenant. Albertson’s was one of 37 Northern California stores that the Idaho-based company closed in 2006. The chain was later sold to Save Mart Supermarkets.

The Clovis store will be Walmart’s third neighborhood market in the central San Joaquin Valley. The retail giant opened a store in Visalia in March and two months later opened it’s second Valley store on the southwest corner of Willow and Herndon avenues in Fresno. But don’t confuse the Fresno store with the new Walmart Supercenter just two miles east in Clovis, near Highway 168.

A fourth neighborhood market is planned on the old Cedar Lanes Bowling Center property in central Fresno. Click here to read Bethany Clough’s story about the local neighborhood markets.

  • American Tire Depot will take over the empty Boston Market building in front of the shopping center, next to the Chevron gas station. The owners also plan to expand the space to accommodate tire installation equipment, service repair space and tire storage, according to city planning documents.
  • True Value Hardware is also moving in. The store is going into the old Walgreens drug store next to American Tire.

That’s it for now, but Shawn Miller, the city’s business development manager said more could be on the horizon.

“With two major anchors, you’ll see a lot more action in that center,” Miller said.

Outside money rolls in for Fresno-Bakersfield Senate runoff

Republican state Senate candidate Andy Vidak got a $161,500 boost to his campaign last week from the California Association of Realtors.

And it comes at just the right time.

Both Vidak, of Hanford, and his Democratic opponent Leticia Perez have been slow to raise funds since they both advanced in the May 21 primary for the Fresno-Bakersfield area 16th Senate District. This week voters begin casting mail ballots for the July 23 runoff.

The California Association of Realtors, a trade group, recorded the $161,500 expense Friday as an independent expenditure, meaning the money won’t go directly to Vidak but will be spent on radio, television and online advertising on his behalf.

Perez, of Bakersfield, got a welcome influx of support last week, too: a $92,141 independent expenditure from Californians for Good Schools & Good Jobs.

According to the latest campaign finance report, Vidak had $83,000 in his campaign coffers as of June 8. He’s raised more than a million dollars for the special election. Perez had $61,000, also having raised more than a million dollars.

The two are vying to replace former Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio, who resigned in February.

Vidak nearly won the seat outright in last month’s primary, coming up just short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.