Valley Springs finally got a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 26 and Vista del Lago Drive. That makes four signals in Calaveras County, an increase of 33 percent. Or is that 25 percent? In any case, I can verify that the lights are working perfectly. I went through them twice and they were green both times.

If my figures are correct, Amador County has nine traffic lights. Residents there won’t be able to say anymore that they have three times more traffic lights than Calaveras. And we won’t even discuss Tuolumne County.

It must be that progress is coming to Calaveras, and the Valley Springs area in particular. We tried to get a light at the intersection of Highways 12 and 26, but I guess that would have cost too much. There was talk of a roundabout, but that would have taken up too much room. Instead, we moved the Century 21 Tri-Dam Realty building and added extra turn lanes. It took about 10 years, but the intersection works pretty well. We can thank Supervisor Gary Tofanelli for pushing it through to the end. Then he got voted out of office. But wait, then he got voted back in.

Keeping a supervisor for more than four years is a tough go in the western half of the county. People are always throwing the bums out. Steve Kearney didn’t even last four years; he got recalled. The previous District 5 supervisor, Darren Spellman, was prevented from taking a leadership role on the board of supervisors because of, um, a lack of confidence in him from the other supervisors. When Spellman ran for re-election, I told him if he made it through the primary I’d give him $100 in a one-way bet. He didn’t collect.

This Vista del Lago traffic light project cost $1.4 million, which seems like a lot of dough to put up for some lights. Maybe part of the cost was a decade of traffic studies to see if we needed a traffic light.

This traffic light project started at the beginning of June, with work expected to finish at the end of August. We were notified the lights would be turned on Sept. 30. Then Oct. 30. And then finally Nov. 14. That’s about right for Valley Springs; nothing gets done here quickly. The new Jenny Lind Veterans Memorial District Hall took about seven years.

We also have a new medical clinic coming to Valley Springs. It was supposed to be done in 2017. Now the date is sometime in 2019, and the size has been cut in half. Yeah, that sort of happens to us down here in Valley Springs.

On the other hand, we are going to have two auto stores, the existing O’Reilly and a new AutoZone that’s being built right now directly across from the O’Reilly store. Now I’m glad to see any new business in Valley Springs, but O’Reilly put the Napa Auto store out of business. What is the AutoZone store going to do to O’Reilly’s?

We are getting an Italian restaurant in the old Napa store: Amici’s from Linden. I heard it is going to have a drive-through, although I am not exactly sure what that means: spaghetti or lasagna to go? I could get used to that.

We also have a new Dollar General, which is odd, because Linden is trying to keep Dollar General out of there. Meanwhile, the Italian restaurant is expanding to Valley Springs. There are a lot of cars in Dollar General’s parking lot.

We also have Sender’s Hardware Store in Valley Springs. Anyone who remembers the old Valley Springs Lumber when you were lucky to get one can of paint on a shelf, is glad there is new ownership in town. They are part of the revitalization of Valley Springs; the parking lot is always packed, and it employs a lot of people.

I was over in Grocery Outlet in Jackson a while back. I told the manager that they needed to build a store in Valley Springs. They would kill it over here. She replied to me, “Why would we do that when people from Valley Springs all come over here to shop?”

Now I think she has the wrong attitude. Valley Springs just got a new traffic light. She should pay attention.

I can see it now, people coming up from the Central Valley heading up the hill, passing through Valley Springs, or maybe they are going to the La Contenta Golf Club. They notice the new traffic light and suddenly they realize that Valley Springs – or parts of the community outside of town – is up and coming. Yes, it’s opportunity for the taking, especially if you’re patient.

Don Urbanus is a Burson business owner. Contact him at


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