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New Statue Joins City's Civic Art Collection
Statues are going up all over town.

A replica of three young fishermen raised in the Oakdale Road median near Claribel Road in the last week is the latest in a string of civic statuary added to the colorful murals that have long embellished the downtown area in the City of Action.

The scene of the boys fishing from a log will be finished later with the addition of recycled glass rock in green, blue and clear colors to flash in the sun and represent a moving stream, said Public Works Director Dave Melilli.

Also due back this week is the statue of a girl sitting on a globe standing at the corner of City Hall North to complement the Sister Cities mural painted by Waterford artist Alexandra Riddle and volunteers during the city's annual Spring Clean.

Almost wrenched from its base by vandals and would-be thieves several weeks ago, the statue has been repaired and fitted with much stronger brackets to hold it in place.

Community Planning Director J.D. Hightower is generally credited with the plan for beautifying the city with art in public places. He often goes on eBay to find and bid on pieces that are inexpensive and fit the theme of a city that was founded on the banks of the Stanislaus River.

He saw the young fishermen bronze on eBay and bought it from All Classics of Delaware for $3,000 including shipping.

The representation of a kayaker dodging river rocks at a roundabout on Squire Wells Road just north of the Crossroads Shopping Center came from the same company at half that price.

"We needed to do something at that intersection," said Hightower, commenting roundabouts and traffic circles were new in town at that time. "It was dangerous. We had cars running into the center mound and it was becoming a weed patch. So we built an island."

That island later became home to the statue.

Northwest of there but still in the Crossroads area, there are two walled center islands standing empty on Antique Rose Road. They will probably stay that way until the adjacent housing development begun by Morrison Homes is resurrected.

Hightower also coordinated design of the statue raised at the Riverbank Community Center war memorial in honor of Navy Petty Officer James Ray Layton, who was killed last September in Afghanistan.

The design is traditional and incorporates a rifle, stuck muzzle down in the earth with a soldier's helmet hung on the stock.

"The family donated $5,000," he said, "Monschein's (a local manufacturing firm) donated all the granite work for the plinth and Curtis Myers (a Public Works employee) welded the steel frame for the statue."

All he is trying to do with the civic art is embellish the city at very low cost, said Hightower, who has saved money from the community planning department budget and sometimes contributed from his own pocket to this cause.

Some citizens have queried the cost of the statuary the city is placing on city entryways and other roads.

But these bronzes are mass produced and relatively inexpensive by contrast with the figure of a ferryman that Betty Saletta of Oakdale designed for the Plaza Del Rio.

"That cost us $150,000. But that is different. It is symbolic of the city, one of a kind and a work of art," Hightower said.