A businessman's request to close an alley was considered by the Ceres City Council during a Monday evening Study Session. The request did not fall on deaf ears.
Bill Ledbetter, owner of Bill's Drywall, asked the city for permission to close off public access to an alley to the west of his business on Railroad Avenue north of Hackett Road. The business has sustained vandalism and thefts by criminals accessing the yard through the alley and often cutting holes in a chain-link fence. Security lights have also been shot out.
Since utility lines run through the alley, the city would be given a key to access gates if allowed to be installed.
A representative of the company said security has been prohibitively expensive and said "we're looking to close it to keep out the riff-raff that goes through the alley."
City Engineer Toby Wells recommended against Ledbetter's request saying "controlling the access is problematic." He added that "the easy answer is no."
He did, however, want the council to weigh in on the request and create policy.
"From a policy perspective the city has no mechanism for closing alleys since there are utilities running down the alley," said Wells.
Gating off the alley would affect two other property owners who would be given keys as well as the city for access.
Wells expressed his doubt that an alley gate would keep out thieves since they are already cutting through the chain-link fence that separates the business from the alley.
Councilmembers expressed a willingness to close off the alley to help the business curb its losses to thieves but some expressed doubts about its effectiveness.
"If they really want something they'll find some way to get in," said Councilman Bret Durrossette. He expressed fear that other residents may request their alleys to be gated off, especially the ones being freshly paved.
Mayor Chris Vierra expressed fear of a Ceres business closing due to thefts.
"I can support that assuming the other residents have no issue with the gate," said the mayor. "There is no guarantee that it will stop it (theft) but it may be a first approach."
"I'd hate for him to pull up and leave Ceres because people have been stealing him blind," echoed Vice Mayor Ken Lane. He said he'd support a policy to treat commercial alleys differently than residential alleys.
Councilman Mike Kline agreed.
Wells said there are about 50 alleys in Ceres, of which five to 10 are commercial alleys.
The matter will come back in the form of a proposed policy in three to four months.