Work to temporarily shut down Linoberg Street in downtown Sonora for one year should begin within the next couple months following a recent donation of $5,000 from Ken Perkins and his wife, Bev Shane, according to City Councilwoman Connie Williams.
The money adds to the $1,750 that the Vision Sonora Design Committee has raised for the project over the past two years. Williams said they will soon order security pots to block vehicles from entering the street, which are expected to take about a month to deliver.
“I think maybe in a month or month-and-a-half you’ll start seeing something happening on Linoberg,” Williams said.
Lowe’s, which has a store located in Sonora, also offered to cut the committee a discount on the pots that were among the most expensive items needed for the project at about $1,200 a piece.
The company previously donated labor and materials to help the committee with a project in 2017 that spruced up the landscaping around the historic fountain and parking lot on the southeast corner South Washington and Church streets.
“They want us to do the project and want to be part of the process as a community member,” Williams said of the retail hardware giant.
Williams said there are three other pending donations, and Blue Mountain Minerals will possibly help with rock tables that will be located on the street after it’s shut down to vehicles.
Marianne Wright, owner of Servente’s Saloon and Market at 64 S. Washington St., has also donated to the cause, according to Williams.
“It’s wonderful that all who have donated want to see the project move forward,” she said.
The project has been discussed as an idea for decades, but only now is coming to fruition after the City Council paid for a traffic study in 2017 that found there would be minimal impact on traffic in the rest of the downtown area by closing off the street to vehicles.
In early March, the council approved closing the street for a trial period of one year to test out the concept.
Williams said the committee is waiting to hear back on whether it received a $10,000 grant it applied for through AARP, which previously wasn’t expected to happen until August but now could be as early as June.
The committee is hoping to raise at least $20,000 for the work, which includes a mural along of the south wall of the building that houses the Diamondback Grill, overhead lighting, and other decorative features.
“I have people come up to me all the time saying they are really looking forward to this project, but we want to make sure we do this correctly right off the bat,” she said.
Perkins said he and Shane decided to donate after reading a story in The Union Democrat on April 5 about how it could take until at least August for the temporary closure to happen without more help from the community.
He is perhaps best known locally for suing the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority last year to force the release of public records he was previously denied about businesses that had benefited from the agency’s assistance.
The lawsuit ultimately ended with a settlement in which the TCEDA released redacted versions of the documents he requested and agreed to pay for his legal fees that amounted to about $7,000.
“Rather than just file lawsuits and criticize, I wanted to be a more active participant in making improvements and helping Sonora have success that they can showcase so others will get excited,” he said. “There’s nothing better than taking action and having something you can demonstrate to the community that anything’s possible.”
Perkins has said that Shane, who previously worked for the county as the director of the Community Resources Agency, was not involved with his efforts related to the TCEDA.
He worked as the county environmental health director from 1985 to 1991, before shifting to the private sector as the head of environmental affairs for companies like Foster Farms, Shaklee Corporation and laser-manufacturer Coherent Inc.
The couple, who lives in Apple Valley Estates, donated the money through their Shane and Perkins Charitable Fund at the Sonora Area Foundation. They also regularly donate to the annual Children’s Holiday Party at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds and to scholarships to Columbia College.
They also created the AP Fund in 2013 that provides grants to nonprofit conservation organizations for the protection of endangered species at risk of extinction in other parts of the world.
Perkins said he believes that philanthropy and volunteerism should also play an important role in the economic development of the city, as opposed to relying solely on government.
“I think they go hand in hand,” he said. “The government has a role to play, and citizens have a role to play in making the community more vibrant and economically viable.”
Williams said anyone who would like to donate or volunteer to help with the work of closing the street can call her at (209) 499-5039.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.