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Tip List: Atwater market a blight contest contender

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK
The now-abandoned Applegate Mini Mart on Sycamore Ave. in Atwater, Calif. Wednesday, July 1, 2009.
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK The now-abandoned Applegate Mini Mart on Sycamore Ave. in Atwater, Calif. Wednesday, July 1, 2009. Merced Sun-Star

ATWATER -- A chain-link fence fronts an abandoned property at Sycamore Avenue in Atwater like a smoke-stained curtain badly hiding a messy room.

Behind the fence a decaying service station named Applegate Mini Mart sits like a building waiting to burn. Fifty gallon drums stand in clumps at the building's edge. A pile of cement and asphalt rises in a far corner of the site like some kind of minor eruption.

The building's roof is chewed up and coming apart.

A big blue "24 Hours" sign still beckons drivers from the mini mart's wall as they pass. On the front glass door it reads "always open." Inside, the building is falling apart.

Welcome to the "king of blight" contest, part two.

A few days ago a tipster wrote in and mentioned this property, and I thought I should take a closer look.

According to the county, the property's owner is a Gill Kirpal Singh, of Fremont, who, along with his other property in Atwater, owes the county more than $35,000 for almost three years of unpaid back taxes.

Singh could not be reached for comment.

Atwater Police Chief Richard Hawthorne said the city has been in the process of cleaning up the site in cooperation with the owner for almost three years.

"We have been going through the process," he said.

Both of Singh's properties are gas stations and they have underground gas tanks that need to be removed before any development can take place, said Hawthorne.

The owner doesn't have the money to pay for the cleanup, and neither does the city. "We don't have the dollars to do the abatement," said Hawthorne. But the state, said Hawthorne, is now moving to force Singh to pay for cleanup. If he does not have the means the state could put a lien on the property, he said.

What is wrong: An old gas station is an eyesore and its underground gas tank has yet to be removed.

Who is at fault: Property owner Gill Kirpal Singh.

If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Jonah Owen Lamb, with your tips at (209) 385-2484 or e-mail jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.

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