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The fight against blight: Chamber trying to rid downtown Lockeford of waste, graffiti

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Posted: Monday, March 19, 2007 10:00 pm

A truck with four flat tires and weeds taller than people growing around it can be found in an alley next to the water tower off Elliott Road.

Such abandoned vehicles, as well as substandard buildings and trash, stand in the way of attracting new businesses and tourists, say members of the town's chamber of commerce.

"You do (better) business in a place where it is clean, safe and friendly, and that's what we're trying to do," said chamber CEO Cynthia Haynes.

Timothy Fowler, president of the Clements-Lockeford Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber formed a committee to tackle the issue. The eight-member chamber committee, including the Lockeford Historical Society and Lockeford Municipal Advisory Council, is working with county code enforcement and Waste Management to clean up the downtown area.

Some merchants said they wouldn't mind seeing Lockeford spruced up.

"It sounds like a good idea. If they clean it up, it will improve business," said Lucky McGovern, owner of Stuck 4 Life Tattoo Studio on Highway 88.

However, Lockeford barber shop owner Leon Jackson said he doesn't see too many abandoned vehicles. It would help businesses more to provide more parking for customers, Jackson said. A solution for the parking problem, Jackson said, would be for someone to buy some property in downtown Lockeford and construct a parking lot for customers.

The clean up effort will begin with two special events in April, where residents and merchants can get rid of large appliances, TVs, computer monitors and other items free of charge.

Once the two events are completed, chamber officials will send letters to property owners, asking them to clean up whatever blighted conditions they have.

Timothy Fowler, Clements-Lockeford Chamber, Lockeford Historical Society
Noel Stetson, Lockeford Municipal Advisory Council
Bob Marty, Lockeford MAC
Gary Gordon, Lockeford Historical Society
Wayne Craig, chamber board member, Clements developer
Eileen Indelicato, chamber board
Norman Clark, chamber board
Dave Ingrum, Clements fire chief.
Waste Management, San Joaquin County and the Clements-Lockeford Chamber will allow people to throw out televisions, computer monitors, microwave ovens, batteries and other electronic waste free of charge on April 14.
From April 24-27, people will be able to dispose of large appliances or up to six 36-gallon bags of trash. Times and locations will be announced.
Source: Clements-Lockeford Chamber of Commerce.

If the property isn't cleaned up, Fowler said the chamber will report the property to the county's Health or Community Development Code Violation and County Abatement department.

"I know of several (vehicles) that have been sitting year after year after year in their yards," Fowler said.

Additionally, some property owners will put tarps on their roofs instead of repairing or replacing them, he said.

Also, a historic two-story building that dominates the northwest corner of Highway 88 and Elliott Road remains unoccupied with tall weeds on three sides. The structure has historical value, having been built in 1882 by Lockeford pioneer Dean Jewett Locke.

Haynes says there is parking available in the alleys behind the Highway 88 stores, but abandoned vehicles, graffiti and trash deter people from parking there.

Fowler, who once chaired the Lodi Chamber of Commerce's Governmental Relations Committee, decided to set up a similar committee with the Clements-Lockeford Chamber, but he added an economic development component.

"There's a lot to be done and cleaned up out there," Fowler said.

While Lockeford residents and merchants have complained for years about blight in the area, little has gotten done. Fowler thinks the difference this time will be to have three community organizations involved.

"The county has come and met with us and told us what we can and can't do," Fowler said. "The chamber doesn't want to get a black eye in this, but I feel we have a responsibility to the entire community."

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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