While Christmas preparations were in full swing this holiday season, there was something missing: lights on trees lining School Street in Downtown.
Traditionally, local shop owners along School Street have been able to decorate the tall trees with an array of Christmas lights, which would be turned on in the winter evenings.
However, city of Lodi officials told downtown merchants they would not be able to decorate this year because of malfunctioning equipment.
They said the small electrical outlets at the base of the trees were damaged, and merchants were advised not to use them.
“The decision to not string lights this past year was based on the number of outlets not functioning or in an unsafe condition,” City Manager Rad Bartlam said. “My view was that lights in trees not working was worse than no lights at all.”
He said the Lodi City Council will hold a Jan. 14 shirtsleeve meeting on the issue to map out a plan of action for getting the transformers and lights up and running again.
“It’s a rather involved process we think the council should be aware of,” Bartlam said, adding that it will cost a “large amount” of money to replace or repair the outlets.
The damage to the outlets on School Street is apparent. Some are bent backwards or covered in dents.
Bartlam said most of the damage is due to weather and age, but vandals and drivers attempting to park on School Street have also bent the outlet boxes.
In addition to the damaged outlets, the recessed lights at the base of each tree were not working.
Although the lampposts that lined School Street were operational, the lack of standard lighting Downtown caused concern among the Downtown Merchants Association.
Bartlam said that maintenance of the lights was another issue that arose this year.
He said he suggested the city provide and install Christmas lights in the trees this year, while groups such as Visit Lodi! and the Downtown Merchants Association manage the maintenance.
He said both groups turned the idea down.
Randall Heinitz, president of the Downtown Merchants Association, and Nancy Beckman, director of Visit Lodi!, were both unavailable for comment.
The city council’s shirtsleeve session begins at 7 a.m. Jan. 14 at Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St.