This new weekly column is all about you.
Do you wonder why a city project promised two years ago hasn't happened?
Maybe there's a tree limb hanging precariously and no one seems to care.
Have you paid hundreds of dollars for wedding photos and never received any of them?
Whether you are merely curious about something or passionately concerned, send your queries to me, and I'll find the answers.
Here are a few samples of questions sent in by friends, Bee readers and co-workers:
A motorcyclist in Ceres wants to know who in Caltrans approved the recent repavement on Highway 99. The work crews shut down one lane each night beginning last June to repave the road, and repeated the process until all three lanes were done. The problem is, there are gaps between the lanes in several places and some rough cement overlay between lanes in others.
It's bad enough driving in a car, but for a motorcyclist, the gaps and bumps could be deadly.
I contacted Tamie McGowen, assistant director in charge of public affairs at the state Department of Transportation. She put me in touch with Chantel Miller, who oversees public affairs for District 10 of Caltrans, who passed me on to Steve Gonzalez, the district's public information officer.
Gonzalez said the work is part of a $90.2 million project to repave about 25 miles on Highway 99 in Stanislaus County between the Merced and San Joaquin county lines. He said the Ceres paving "is not complete. The new concrete lanes were saw-cut when placed. This is normal practice to allow for contraction and expansion of the concrete. The next step is to seal the sachet joints, which has not yet been done because there were cracks that developed during the removal and replacement of the lanes."
Once the cracks are fixed, Gonzalez said, the contractor "will finish sealing the joints." Weather permitting, he said, the sealing would be done this month. Clearly, the 65-degree-plus days of sunshine we've recently experienced must not be good enough; no apparent work has been done.
Inge Kendall of Modesto wrote to ask why Hawaiian residents who vote by mail don't have to pay for postage, while Californians do.
Lee Lundrigen, the registrar of voters for Stanislaus County, said California law doesn't require the state, county or district to pick up the tab for mail-in ballots.
In most instances, folks aren't forced to pay for a stamp, she pointed out. They can vote in their neighborhoods at the polling place, or drop off their mail-in ballot at the polling place or at the registrar's office in downtown Modesto.
And it would get expensive, she added, if counties had to pay the postage. Los Angeles, for example, has 5 million voters, she said. If all of them voted with prepaid-postage ballots, it would cost about $2.5 million. In Stanislaus County, where more than 107,000 mail-in ballots were returned in the last election on Nov. 6, taxpayers would foot the bill of more than $53,500, compared with each mail-in voter's cost of less than 50 cents.
Another Modesto resident wanted to know why the closed Raley's store in Century Center on Oakdale Road and Orangeburg Avenue has its lights blazing 24-7. The store, which had anchored the center since it opened in 1979, closed at the end of March and is currently listed for sale or lease.
"It's possible this is to deter theft, but I don't see how. It seems like a ridiculous waste of power," she wrote.
John Segale, a spokesman for Raley's corporate office in Sacramento, said the lights are left on because "we're just trying to keep the building in the best operating condition as possible." He said the lights help "with the infrastructure of the building" and also "helps provide light in a very dark parking lot. It's part security, part building maintenance."
Finally, one Ceres resident said a boat on its trailer has been parked on her city street for months and wondered if that's a violation of city regulations.
Ceres police Sgt. Danny Vierra said the city's Municipal Code states that recreational vehicles, travel trailers and boats can only be parked on a city street for 72 hours for loading, unloading or repairs. After that, it's subject to fines ranging from $50 to $500.
So, you get the idea. Send me your questions, but remember a few rules:
You must give me your real name, address and phone number. Unless there's a privacy issue, I will use your name but not your contact info in the column.
I will answer as many questions as possible, but there may be weeks when there are simply too many, or your query may be similar to a previous question, or it could be too vague or just plain dumb.
If the answer is too complex for this column, I'll pass it on to a reporter who covers that area, and he or she may write a longer story about it.
I won't get involved in neighborhood disputes or personal beefs. If you want to know if your town has an ordinance about barking dogs or loud music, I'll check it out, but I won't find out why officials haven't intervened into your particular case. Unless I want to.
I'll also give you an assignment from time to time. Here's your first one: Send me the specific location of the deepest, widest potholes in the area. I'll check them out and find out why the worst ones haven't been fixed.
So bring it on all the questions you have, all of your concerns, all of your curiosity. I'll give you the answers. I promise.
Next week: Modesto Area Express bus tickets
Send questions to Sue Nowicki at email@example.com, fax to (209) 578-2207 or mail to P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256.