At the March 21st City Council meeting, representatives from the city staff spoke to the city council in order to give an update on the construction of Landmark Square. The site will hold the new location for the Clovis public library as well as a new senior center and a transit hub.
At the meeting, the details for both the senior center and the transit hub were extrapolated over the length of a 3 minute short video that can be found here. Construction has begun on Landmark Square and will be located off Clovis avenue on Third street.
After the video was played for the council, it was explained that the video’s primary use was for “fundraising and to provide the status of the project standing.” City staff then went on to explain that after breaking ground for the construction site in March of 2021, they found soil contamination under the surface of their grounds. In order to manage the soil contamination, the city has been working with the Department of Toxic Substance Control or DTSC since March of 2021 until the current day.
The city then went on to explain that in order to deal with the soil contamination they not only have hired the consultants in addition to the Fresno County Health Department and the County Public Works Department, but have also done extensive soil testing, installed vapor wells and have collected samples from the entire property.
Based on the sampling that the city has done, the city’s own toxicologist determined that there was a low health risk and that “additional building protections were not required.” This ruling from the city came in August of 2021, but a month later a report from the DTSC provided more comments on risk assessment of the site and asked for additional information from the city. In October of 2021 the city provided information to DTSC but as of the current day the city is still waiting for a “complete response” from the agency.
In November of 2021 city staff came to the council with more information and sought approval for a vapor barrier that according to city staff “should conform with DTSC’s requirements.” It is the city’s belief that this vapor barrier will meet the DTSC’s requirements for additional services upon the land. Instead of waiting for an answer from the DTSC, the city went ahead and installed the vapor barrier in order to “get the project moving”.
Fresno County District 5 Supervisor Nathan Magsig commented on the situation. “This has always been a dream to have the library, the senior center, and the transit center all located in one location and that’s been my dream as well.” Magsig went on to explain that the contamination slowed down the process at the county in addition to the city, however his biggest concern stems from the location of the library and his hope to “build on a clean site”. He suggests taking control of the library through Fresno County as he believes he has not seen a report suggesting the location of the library having any toxicity under its grounds.
Magsig maintains his commitment to building “a spectacular library in the city of Clovis” sooner rather than later. In calling the proposed library a “destination point” he believes the worst possible situation would be allegations and the “looming cloud” of legal action if someone were to get sick. “If someone got sick, you know, we could end up with some kind of a lawsuit.” Other than this, Magsig says he’s “not concerned in practical terms of any harm being done.”
The city council expressed their frustration with how long they have waited for the site to be completed as well as their exasperation in waiting for a response from the DTSC. Mayor Pro-Tem Lynne Ashbeck finished the conversation with her thoughts.
“Maybe doing a little bit more of active sampling on the site that is designated for the library. Reaching out to state assembly members or our state senator to see if we can spur on DTSC. And then finalizing a land transfer agreement with indemnity language at least being reviewed in anticipation of that moment [land being transferred from the City of Clovis to Fresno County] occurring.”
Ashbeck stated that the council as well as the city has “very specific tasks” and ended with saying that this was the best location for a “spectacular Clovis library” but remained “who would have thought 20 years later we were still talking about it.”