The downtown hotel project may not be dead, but it’s on life support. Lodi Realtor Phil Katzakian, who is representing the developer, says a recent market study cast doubt on the feasibility of the project. Katzakian says there are flaws in the study and he and his client may decide to have it redone. But until then the venture is in limbo. Katzakian says the proposed 40,000-square-foot hotel would have five stories and 85 rooms, with retail on the ground floor, and be located on the corner of School and Lodi Avenue. Farmers and Merchants Bank owns the property on the corner as well as the old Rocha’s Mortuary next door. A previous proposal to build a hotel where the post office is ended up in the dead letter file with PO officials in Washington.

NEW HIRE: Homeless advocate and community volunteer wonder woman Kathryn Siddle has been named the new homeless outreach coordinator for Inner City Action. Inner City manages the temporary shelter on Sacramento Street. Part of her duties will be to work in conjunction with the Lodi Committee on Homelessness and the city. The city council allocated $275,000 to pay for the new position as well as additional cleanup of alleyways and neighborhoods around the shelter. Siddle says she spends most of her time in the field, contacting unsheltered individuals and arranging help for the willing. Siddle has been a social worker for a long time, starting first with the county and then working in home health for Lodi Memorial Hospital. She received the Mayor’s Community Service award from Mark Chandler in December.

HELPING HAND: In case you missed it, Supervisor Steve Ding, who has been on the frontlines of the stormwater cleanup effort, and Lodi City Councilman Cameron Bregman, representing the Rotary Club, are collecting donations of gift cards for flood victims. To donate, call Bregman at 209-747-5971.

LESSON LEARNED: Good-hearted Yadina Peña of Lodi was walking into Rancho San Miguel the other day when she was approached by some folks asking for food money. She instead decided to buy them food and something to keep them warm. While shopping for her family, she also bought two large burritos, some drinks, chips and a blanket for the folks in need outside. As she was leaving the store, Yadina handed the care package to one of the men, saying, “God bless you!!” While pulling out of the parking lot, she saw the guy toss everything into the trash. Fit to be tied, Yadina went back and retrieved the blanket — for which she paid $39 — from the garbage can. “It makes it hard to help the people that actually need help!!! Never again, lesson learned! I’ll just stick to minding my own business,” she says.

SOLD: The Cut the Mustard sandwich shop has been sold to Cris and Howard Hipsher. They tell this column that they are in the beginning stages of working on all the legal stuff right now, plus a name change. The shop was put up for sale late last year by owner Ben Holcomb, who said at the time it was a bittersweet decision to sell, but he had decided to go a different direction with his food and service industry career. The eatery, located on the corner of Pine and Guild, has been known for their gourmet sandwiches.

WET N’ WILD: Well, Dr. Patrick Sweeney’s “Lodi Lake Weather” station reports that we’ve already surpassed the seasonal rainfall average for the year. According to the good doctor’s rain gauges, Lodi has received a whopping 20.95 inches of precipitation so far this season. And it’s only January! This area averages about 19 inches of rain per year. Lodi received almost 10 inches of the wet stuff so far this January. … Now is not the time of year to be a water-waster. We are in the middle of the three-month period when the city tracks everyone’s water usage, a number that will be used to calculate sewer rates this coming fiscal year, starting in July. So, if you fill your swimming pool between now and March 1, you’ll likely pay for it in higher sewer fees for the next 12 months. Just sayin’.

HELP WANTED: The police department isn’t the only city department having staffing issues. The fire folks have also been struggling to keep positions filled. They currently have 10 vacant positions, and Fire Chief Ken Johnson anticipates that number to grow to 14 shortly. As a remedy, the department is sending 10 candidates currently on the entry firefighter eligibility list through the Stockton Regional Fire Academy. The cost per recruit is $6,950. Additional costs for certification will be incurred to a maximum of $500 per recruit, according to Johnson. The total cost for 10 recruits is $74,500.

CLEAN UP: Downtown Lodi’s yellow sidewalks got a good pressure-wash cleaning last month by Jeremiah’s Painting of Lodi, who was hired by the city at a cost of $21,500. The cleaning job included sidewalks along School, between Lodi and Locust, and portions of Elm Street. The city council decided several moons ago that the yellow cement needed a good scrubbing every year.

FLASHBACK: There were no roses or champagne on that Valentine’s Day in 1986. In fact, the group of business-types who whisked through the doors of American Diversified Savings at 110 W. Oak weren’t there to deliver chocolates, either. They were federal regulators, there to take over the bank. The Costa Mesa-based institution had been declared insolvent by the Federal Loan Bank Board. As is the custom, a large group of regulators swoop in, excuse all the employees for the day, perform an audit, and assume control of the bank. Clifford Hanks, Lodi vice president and branch manager, told a reporter that mismanaged real estate investments by a subsidiary of the savings bank led regulators to act. Additional capital was immediately infused into the bank and a new three-member management team was appointed along with a new board of directors. Hanks said at the time the bank had deposits from nearly 1,000 Lodi investors, amounting to $22 million, and that all their money was completely safe and insured.

Hanks said in an interview with the News-Sentinel, “We will remain open in Lodi to continue to serve the needs of the people of Lodi.” American Diversified was founded in 1980 as Tokay Savings. The newly-appointed executive vice president, Robert Botts, told a reporter the problem wasn’t with the Lodi branch, but with the parent operation in Costa Mesa. The branch was eventually closed and today the space is used by The Oxford Kitchen.

Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.