Pop star Britney Spears was in town over the weekend, reportedly celebrating the birthday of a 92-year-old lady friend of hers. Spears attended the private party at the Hidden Tea Room on Lockeford at California Streets, according to a confidential source who was there.

Despite Spears’ superstar status, “nobody made a big deal of it, and just let her be,” they said.

Spears was married five days ago in Thousand Oaks (L.A.) to her actor/fitness expert boyfriend Sam Asghari. She has also been in the news lately for managing to end her tumultuous conservatorship that was directed by her dad.

Duck!

The sky wasn’t falling — it was the ceiling! Some horrified motorists who parked their cars in the Downtown parking garage on Pine and Sacramento returned to their vehicles to find big chunks of concrete from the structure’s ceiling had fallen on their cars, causing significant damage. Apparently, a person was doing donuts on the top floor of the structure and crashed into a wall, knocking the concrete loose.

“He did at least turn himself in,” said City Manager Steve Schwabauer.

For the time being, the city has decided to block off the upper deck and cone off the Elm Street entrance to give city officials time to figure out how to better secure the area.

“These measures are temporary while we evaluate longer-term improvements to prevent this dangerous behavior,” says Schwabauer.

Updates

Construction is going fast and furious in the new Talavera subdivision on Cochran Road, site of the former Sunwest Swim and Racquet Club. The 5.2-acre housing tract will have 27 new houses built, many of which are already framed up. ...

Dirt is being moved and site improvements made where the old Alexander’s Bakery once was. A new commercial building, which will house a new bakery, is being built there as part of the Sunset Theater renovation project, which is being done by owner Terry Clark. He says work on the theater building will soon start up again. ...

The Corner Scone bakery-café is open again, apparently having been sold to new owners. The bakery has been closed since the end of last year. The previous owner, Terrie Green, posted online that she had plans to move to Portugal this summer. Terrie also owns the Hidden Tea Room (see above).

Kinda not

Have you seen that billboard on Lockeford, just east of School, that says, “Buy in Lodi. It’s kinda like Napa. Kinda.” It’s an advertisement for Goodneighbor real estate company.

Well, Bob Lauchland has seen it, and as a grape grower, he’s not particularly amused.

“I’m sure the real estate company meant well but as a (winegrape) grower in Lodi I don’t think our aspirations are to be ‘kinda’ any other wine region,” he says.

Survey says

The city’s electric utility recently commissioned a public survey to be taken of its customers. The results are in, and it’s a mixed bag.

The survey included phone and digital contact with about 600 residential customers, “digital interviews” with nine commercial customers, and sessions with 14 focus groups. Among the key findings is that customers are not having their issues resolved on the first call, and they are finding it increasingly difficult to decipher the charges on their monthly bills. People also said they want an explanation for how rates are determined and month-to-month data showing their electric usage over time. People said they had difficulty finding the information they want on the department’s website, too.

However, residential customers gave Lodi Electric an overall rating of 71.2 this year, compared to a 64.8 in 2019. Survey respondents said they expect Lodi Electric to provide “low and reasonable rates, reliable service, customer service, safety, and more renewable energy programs.” ...

As an aside, the city’s finance department, which is responsible for handling utility billing issues, has been closed to the public on numerous occasions because of a worker shortage, city officials say.

Rough road

Among the roadwork projects included in the new city budget will be the resurfacing of Lower Sacramento Road from Kettleman to Turner. The work will be done over the next 12 months and will include pavement repair, pavement striping, and other miscellaneous things.

The Public Works Department estimates it will cost about $2 million, but the final number will depend on the bids they receive. The project will include installing rubberized asphalt pavement on the resurfaced roadway, according to city staff.

Up, up, and away

As of this writing, gas prices in Lodi range from $6.02 to $6.79, with diesel prices running even higher. The average for gasoline is about $6.34. The lowest listed price within the city limits has been at Costco. Diesel ranges from $6.65 to $7.19 per gallon, with prices changing almost daily. ...

The Airport Café at the Lodi Airport on Highway 99 at Jahant will be reopening in August, according to their social media post. The place has been a local favorite for pilots and passengers for years.

Charge it

It may be the end of the road for electric vehicle owners who’ve been charging up for free at city-owned charging stations. As the city adds to and upgrades its charging locations, customers will begin to see credit card swipes in places they never saw them before.

The city has had charging stations around town for years and there has never been a charge for the charge. But that will be changing over time, says City Manager Steve Schwabauer. No more free rides, as they say.

Flashback

It was the fifth time a presidential candidate had come to Lodi courting voters. Texas Gov. George W. Bush made a whistle stop in Lodi on Aug. 10, 2000 as part of his campaign for president. Bush was accompanied on the train by his wife Laura and U.S. Senator John McCain.

Local politicians gave speeches that electrified the crowd before Bush’s train arrived. State Assembly candidate Greg Aghazarian asked who was tired of big government, which brought a roar from the crowd. Chairman of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors Jack Sieglock decried the “marriage tax” and hinted at breaches in security at the White House, saying Bush would plug the holes, if elected. Rep. Richard Pombo said cities like Lodi would make a difference in Bush winning the presidency.

Upon their arrival, Bush and McCain took turns speaking from the train’s rear car platform to the estimated 11,000 spectators, well-wishers and supporters. Bush spoke about cutting taxes and strengthening family values. McCain, a former Vietnam POW, asked veterans in the crowd to raise their hands and be recognized. After their remarks, the Bushes and McCain disembarked and greeted excited supporters, who were being held at bay by Secret Service agents.

Bush, McCain, Pombo and their entourage climbed into a waiting motorcade that would take them to Stockton and the home of real estate mogul A.G. Spanos for a private fundraiser.

Pombo Chief of Staff Steve Ding, who coordinated the rally, said at the time, “We had no idea the crowd would be so big.” Ding is now a local restauranteur and candidate for the Board of Supervisors.

Correction

Last week I wrote that Vice President Dan Quayle flew into Stockton aboard an A.G Spanos jet. Not so, says former Lodi City Councilman Randy Snider. Quayle arrived in Stockton aboard Air Force Two, the official vice-presidential aircraft.

How does Snider know? He was on the city council at the time and was there to greet Quayle as his flight touched down, after which he was given a tour of the plane. Not many people can say they’ve done that.

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