Lodi Police Officer Mitch LeStrange recently responded to a vehicle accident in the 200 block of Flora where a boy's bicycle was destroyed. The bike was surely the kid’s most prized possession. So Officer LeStrange goes to Target and, at his own expense, buys the boy a brand new bike and helmet, and then delivers them to his home. To say the young man and his family were surprised and grateful would be an understatement. Cpt. Sierra Brucia said of LeStrange, “He is definitely that type of employee (who) doesn't bring attention to himself.” … But wait, there’s more. Live Oak Elementary School Principal Rashelle Nuss has been a participant in a program that distributes clothing to needy students. She was recognized at a recent school board meeting for purchasing jackets for students out of her own pocket. Quiet acts of kindness that happen all the time, below the radar.

SUDDEN IMPACT: Local resident Larry Skelton was in the intersection of Cherokee Lane and Lockeford Street the other day when another car blew through the flashing reds, t-boning him on the rear quarter panel of his pickup. The impact sent Larry spinning around in a 360. Larry was luckily not injured. But the other car didn’t stop. As luck would have it, Dennis Cunnington and business partner Kim Hoellwarth saw it all and were right there. Turns out all three of them are Odd Fellows members, so now it’s personal. They gave chase. On the phone to 911, they kept law enforcement updated with locations, letting them know they were in hot pursuit, but dispatchers told them to stop following the suspect (too dangerous). Roger that. So they called it off and came back to town. While arriving back to town they glanced over and there he was, the suspect! So the chase was on! Dennis and Kim finally backed off, but not before they were able to get the license number.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: The police department’s new community liaison officer is Dan Schiele, who replaces Officer Richard Dunfee, who rotated out of that position and is now back on patrol. The liaison officer deals with the homeless and transient population on a full time, daily basis, in addition to meeting with concerned residents. Schiele is also a U.S. Marine Corps captain, credentials that may come in handy when assisting some of his clients. … The community action to address the homeless situation in Lodi continues. A couple Saturdays ago a group of citizens staged a “sit-in” at Emerson Park to bring attention to the growing homeless crisis at city parks. Interestingly, representatives from the Guardian Angels organization also attended. Some in the crowd have suggested setting up a chapter in Lodi, an idea that must thrill the police chief. … Keeping in mind that San Francisco may well be the homeless capital of the state, that city has gone so far as to hire a staff of people to respond to complaints of poop on public property. When notified of a pile of doo-doo, the squad responds to the scene to scoop up and tidy up. Some enterprising young man even developed a smartphone app called “Snapcrap” that people could use to snap a picture of an offending specimen and upload it to the poop patrol. The phone app also includes a map with all of the reported soil locations, presumably so one can watch their step. Unfortunately, the app is no longer available. Seems the Snapchat company felt the other name infringed upon their copyright, so they sent some attorneys over for a real chat. Not making this up, folks.

TALE OF TWO CITIES: If you work for Lodi Unified School District or the city of Lodi, and have health insurance through either employer, then you know that your zip code either saves you money or costs you more. Both the city and LUSD contract with CalPERS for their employee insurance plans. For years now, there has been a considerable rate disparity: employees who live in Lodi have paid significantly higher insurance premiums than those who live in Galt — for the same exact insurance plan. Lodi is in the “Bay Area” rate area, but Galt is in the cheaper “Sacramento” area. For example, an employee living in Lodi with a Kaiser plan (self plus dependents) have been paying about $2,500 more per year than an employee with the same plan living in Galt. Not exactly chump change. But things are about to change, according to LUSD Chief Business Officer Leonard Kahn. “For the 2020 plan year, CalPERS has reduced the regions to just three statewide, and virtually all of our employees are in the same region now,” he says. Bad news for those living in Galt and other places who have enjoyed the price difference. “Those employees living in the Sacramento area will … see noticeable increases in their insurance rates,” Kahn says. Who cares? As a taxpayer, you should. Both the city and school district pick up a significant portion of those insurance premiums.

REMEMBRANCE: With the Lodi Grape Festival just a few weeks away, we remember the life of Charl Lee Joens, the 1967 Festival queen, who passed away from natural causes on August 2nd at her home in Dunsmuir. Her second cousin Mila Hale remembers her having “the most beautiful voice and sang at many Lodi events … with Bill Pisani [at the piano]. I've never heard The Lord's Prayer and Climb Every Mountain sung so beautifully,” she writes. Joens went on to become a professional singer. She was “a true Lodi treasure that will never be forgotten,” says Hale. There was only a three-sentence obituary about Charl Lee on the Mt. Shasta Memorial Chapel website. A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. at the Methodist Church in Mt. Shasta.

OFF THE GRID: Don’t want solar panels on your house? You might not have a choice. Starting in January, new state building codes established by the California Building Standards Commission will require every new home to have solar panels. The new regulations will affect all low-rise residential buildings including single family homes and multi-family buildings of three stories or less, including apartments and condos, according to Solar Builder and other sources. But don’t look for a fat rebate check from the city of Lodi for all those unused kilowatts you generate. The city long ago reached its cap on the number of spare kilowatts it is required to buy back at full price from solar customers. Most buy-backs will be at a lower rate.

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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.

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