Surprise! Meth lab found? |

Surprise! Meth lab found?

The Union photo/Eileen JoyceAlex Neel of A/C Industrial carries chemicals and containers from a suspected methamphetamine lab found in an abandoned house on Searls Avenue in Nevada City.
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Abandoned in recent years, a dilapidated Nevada City house allegedly became the scene for a methamphetamine lab after police went there looking for a crime suspect Thursday night.

An officer visited 443 Searls Ave. seeking 34-year-old Steven Spreadbury in connection with a fight downtown.

Spreadbury was there, in the basement, along with a small amount of recently cooked meth and two backpacks containing meth ingredients, manufacturing equipment and weigh scales, said police Sgt. Lorin Gage. The suspected meth was found in a coffee filter.

The discovery, just before 11 p.m. Thursday, set off a chain of events that reeled in outside agencies. Police called the Nevada County Narcotics Task Force, which called in a hazardous materials team to handle the chemicals and the state Department of Justice to inventory the alleged lab items and collect fingerprints.

Neighbor Randy Kuehn arrived home about 3 a.m. Friday to find officers at the house. In addition to being an eyesore, he said, the house has been home to people with “ghostly looks” who routinely hiked to the nearby convenience store.

“We never got to know those people because they were just too . . . strange,” he said.

Thursday wasn’t the first time police visited the house, with its worn siding, missing shingles and slumped porch where a battered piano sits. Outside, a sheet of plywood sits on four chairs – perhaps a makeshift table.

“It was vacated a couple of years ago, and we’ve had transients crashing there, so we’ve run them out in the past,” Gage said.

He said the owner gave officers permission to routinely shoo away trespassers.

The house’s former owner, a Nevada City woman, died last January at 85. The woman’s daughter said the roughly 80-year-old house is stuck in probate court. Last summer, she said, truckloads of trash were removed and more cleaning is planned.

When narcotics agents arrived, they didn’t hesitate calling a hazardous materials team. The chemicals were deemed “unstable” because they were in open containers, said one agent at the scene, where the cleanup lasted through much of Friday morning. Closed containers are often handled by the agents.

Meth labs sometimes pose a risk for explosion when solvents used during manufacturing are cooked down. Among the items found at the house were hotplates.

Meanwhile, Spreadbury is being held at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility on $50,750 bail.

When United Way of Nevada County asked the views of county residents about social issues, a full 92 percent said drug and alcohol abuse is a very significant or a somewhat significant problem for the community.

Earlier this year, local Nevada County officials discussed ways to tackle the problems of methamphetamine use.

Ideas to combat the illegal stimulant discussed by Nevada County officials:

– Improve communications between all agencies affect by meth.

– Address police perceptions that drug dealers are let off easy.

– Have more drug prevention activities for children.

– Open a residential treatment home for teens.

– Get evidence to child protection workers more quickly, so kids can be removed from meth labs.

– Seek grant money.

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