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Tip List: And the brown grass grows all around

Driving to his own Cooper Avenue business every morning, Randy Fontes can't help but notice the weeds popping up on the now-closed 84 Lumber property at Highway 59.

"There's about a foot and a half of foxtails," growing at the location, said the frustrated Fontes.

The store was closed in December, putting 10 people out of work.

Merced's building slowdown was blamed for the Pennsylvania-based building supply wholesaler, which closed 12 stores around the same time Merced's store was shut down. The business announced another 30 store closures earlier this month, including the consolidation of the Visalia store with the one located in Clovis.

Since the closure of Merced's store, Fontes said no one has been out to mow or landscape the property.

"When they were here, they always kept the lawn and grounds maintained," he said. "Just because you close the business doesn't mean you shouldn't still maintain it."

Officials of 84 Lumber agree with Fontes. Public relations manager Robyn Hall said it is the company's development department who is in charge of "maintaining properties until they are sold." Merced's 84 Lumber has a for-sale sign on its fence, despite the company's original plan to convert it into a plant to produce building components.

Spokesman Jeff Nobers of 84 Lumber said in December that a plant would open on the Merced property in three to four months.

"Nothing's going on over there," Fontes said. "All the windows and doors are boarded up."

Jim Zaunick, who works in 84 Lumber's real estate and engineering department, said he was unaware of the weed issue at the Merced location.

"I'll get the maintenance guys out there," he told Tip List on Wednesday morning.

It might, however, be a while before the grounds look as nice as the adjacent businesses' trimmed, green lawns. Zaunick said his department is working to maintain 50 closed stores across the country.

"I don't want to say we work east to west, but," he paused, "it will take a few weeks."

WHAT'S WRONG: The vacated 84 Lumber site in Merced is overgrown with weeds.

WHAT'S BEING DONE: The corporate office's development department plans to work on the property within the next few weeks.

WHO'S RESPONSIBLE: 84 Lumber, (800) 664-1984

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