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KINGSBURG – Don’t start pouring your waffle syrup just yet. With a 30-day extension coming to an end for the owners of the former Swedish Mill, a decision to either repair the property or have the structure demolished is being postponed.

An agreement has been presented by a franchisee to turn the site into a Country Waffles establishment, but Kingsburg’s City Council is taking a wait-and-see approach. They’ll hear a progress report in a month, but so far they’re holding out hope that John Ghazale’s plans come to fruition.

At the Council’s Feb. 6 meeting, Trinity Construction’s Josh O’Bannon said his plans are to have the building and site remodeled by the end of May or possibly June or July. Kelly Allred, a representative with Country Waffles, confirmed that Ghazale is taking on the project and is in the process of securing a business loan.

“We have a printed copy of our franchise agreement,” Allred said. “He and his family have other restaurants in the Bakersfield area that he owns and operates. He also is the owner of a Country Waffles franchise location in Riverpark in Fresno.”

Kingsburg City officials say they’d still like to hear back in 30 days to see what progress has been made.

During this meeting, Council also swore in its new interim fire chief, approved property annexations for a new housing development, appointed Measure E Committee members and entered into an agreement with Kingsburg Youth Baseball.

Allred said their firm is looking forward to opening the restaurant as it would be their first 24-hour location and serve as a prototype for their chain.

“Now we are set and we have a plan. I’m really looking forward to getting this unit open. It’s been awhile since [the last meeting] and I’ve had several other Country Waffles throughout the state open and operate. We have 22 other locations, but this will be a shining star here in Kingsburg.”

At an Oct. 17, 2018 Council meeting, Allred detailed the new concept for the restaurant. She said the Kingsburg Country Waffles would have one side as a coffee bar and the other as a dine-in restaurant with an expansive menu of waffles, two patios and an outdoor market area.

O’Bannon’s construction schedule shows a May 22 completion date but he added it would likely be closer to June or July for the remodeling work to be done.

“But obviously, the sooner the better for everybody concerned is best.”

Patch and seal work would start on the parking lot asphalt as soon as Feb. 11 and site clean-up would continue. Other work includes reinstalling posts at the entrance, installing new water service, interior demolition, plumbing modifications, electrical and HVAC installation, finish carpentry, painting, flooring, ADA signage, kitchen equipment installation, lighting upgrades, irrigation and landscaping.

“There’s a lot to do on this site. Everything to the building, as well as the remodel, has to be updated,” he said. He estimates the project will cost $100,000.

As the construction is completed, restaurant equipment would be installed, and staff would be hired and trained prior to the opening. A definite opening date has not been set.

Ghazale said he’s been a franchisee for two years now with his Riverpark Country Waffles establishment and hopes this one will bring jobs and a new dining option to town. He said part of what’s held them up is the shutdown at the federal government level.

“I’ve already applied for an SBA loan, but the government shutdown affected it and made it take longer than expected. I had to get all my paperwork and at the last minute, the government shut down. We’ve started all over again. It’s being processed and everything’s been approved up to this point.”

Ghazale said his business loan is pending and expects it to be approved this month. In the meantime, he’s optimistic about this site as it’s right off Highway 99 and highly visible.

“We believe this location will do great because it’s right off the freeway. And with the 24-hour concept, we plan to see how this works for future developments. This is my dream and what I believe in.”

Mayor Michelle Roman said they, too, would be excited to see the restaurant open after languishing for so many years.

“We’ll check in on this timeframe. We definitely want to see it open as soon as possible and the residents do, too. We want you to be very successful,” she said.

City Attorney Michael Noland said City staff will delay any further demolition action and Council will hear have another update at its March 6 meeting.

Councilman Sherman Dix said he’d still like to see construction work taking place in the meantime but was optimistic all the plans fall into place.

“All in all, it’s very encouraging.”

New Fire Chief

Interim Fire Chief Tim Sendelbach was ceremoniously sworn in at the beginning of the meeting. He has 33 years of industry experience which includes:

  • Editor-in-Chief and Conference Director for Firehouse
  • International Society of Fire Service Instructors president
  • Assistant Fire Chief with the North Las Vegas Fire Department
  • Chief of Training for Savannah Fire & Emergency Services
  • Assistant Fire Chief for Missouri City Fire & Rescue Services
  • Chief Fire Officer and Chief Training Officer with the Center for Public Safety Excellence

Sendelbach's education includes a master’s degree in leadership from Bellevue University, bachelor’s degrees in Fire Administration and Arson and an associate degree in Emergency Medical Care from Eastern Kentucky University.

Sendelbach previously earned the Innovator of the Year Award in 2002 from the International Society of Fire Service Instructors and the George Hughes Award from the Texas Association of Fire Educators in 2001. He’s competed in 14 Iron Man competitions as a tri-athlete. His official start date was Jan. 21.

City Manager Alex Henderson said the new fire chief has started by focusing on the Measure E hiring process, acquisition of new equipment and is working with the crews on implementing new training programs.

Sendelbach said he appreciates the opportunity to work with the City and its Fire Department and the first few weeks have already been productive.

“I shared with the crews that I don’t come here with all the answers. I come here with an open mind and a willingness to work. I don’t want to be a place holder, but somebody who’s going to make a difference and serve the community, help you where I can and make the place just a little bit better and safer for you.”

Andersen Village

In other matters, the Council approved annexing 5.14 more acres into the city limits for the Andersen Village housing project, previously called the Hash Development. The two lots are triangular shaped and include 10 housing lots each. The northern triangle would front onto Plumas Street. The more southerly triangle would front onto either 22nd Avenue or Lindquist Street. San Joaquin Valley Homes will build out a total of 150 lots, which includes 32 multi-family units just north of Kern Street in the project overall. An agreement has been reached with Tulare County to prevent future houses that straddle the County lines from lying in both counties. The lots will range from 7,000 to 10,000 square feet and includes a neighborhood park. The houses will range from 1,440 to 2,314 square feet and be single and two-story houses.

Ken Cross with San Joaquin Valley Homes said the neighborhood will be built so there is a variety of layouts and the garages will not be emphasized. Streets will include trees and landscaping strips.

“The different elevations and the variations in setbacks will help us achieve the goals of the plan we want to satisfy,” Cross said. He did not know the price range as of yet. Solar will be offered as an option at first but will be required by 2020, he said.

The subdivision will be provided with water by the city. The City’s water system consists of six wells and City Engineer Peters Engineering said Kingsburg has ample water capacity to serve the 142 additional single-family residential lots and multi-family lots. Also, the SFK wastewater treatment facility has declared it has ample capacity to treat the effluent generated by the new residences. Storm water runoff will be conveyed to a nearby storm drainage retention ponds located south of the site. A grading and drainage plan that will be submitted by the developer will determine how and where the storm water will be managed.

Measure E Committee

Council went on to appoint five members to serve on its Measure E Safety Tax Committee. Voters approved the one percent sales tax in June 2018 and the tax took effect Oct. 1. The following were appointed to serve four-year terms: Jerry Avedikian, Porfirio Chavez, Bryan Cogburn, John R. Matic and Staci Smith.

Kingsburg Youth Baseball Association

Council also entered into an agreement with Kingsburg Youth Baseball Association to develop the donated 3.5 acres next to Safarjian Field into another playing field to offer more league participation. The park is also part of the new Andersen Village housing project.

Council discussed mobile food and sidewalk vendors rules and its agreement with the Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce. Those matters will return for a future discussion before any action is taken.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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