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Manteca’s goal: 5th fire station, new police office

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POSTED April 23, 2014 1:23 a.m.

Manteca needs to restore police and firefighting staffing to prerecession levels.

That is among the top goals that the Manteca City Council has set for the coming years.

But right up there is a need to eventually build a new police headquarters as well as construct a fifth fire station at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue.

The City Council made that clear during a recent goals and budget priority session. The workshop was designed to provide direction to staff before preparing the upcoming budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 as well as to prioritize work on longer range goals.

“The fact we need more police officers doesn’t diminish the need for a new police facility,” Mayor Willie Weatherford noted during the goals session.

When Manteca sworn officer staffing is restored to 2006 staffing levels the existing police facility at 1001 W. Center Street will again be pushing its limits. During the past 12 years the city had taken initial steps twice to secure a new police headquarters. One was the purchase of land on South Main Street just north of Mission Ridge Drive for a South County criminal justice center. The other was the purchase of the former Qualex film processing building on Industrial Park Drive for a stand-alone police station. Both were purchased with redevelopment agency funds. Both now have to be sold under state orders to liquidate all remaining RDA property.

The criminal justice center plan went south when San Joaquin County judges reversed course and decided instead to pursue a new main courthouse in downtown Stockton. The 52,000-square-foot Qualex building renovation plans were stopped when the state changed rules for new police stations requiring them to have 24/7 jail staffing for holding cells. If Manteca had proceeded on their timetable instead of stopping  to reconsider the city would have had a new facility in place by 2010 but would have been obligated to have had around the clock jail staffing that would have cost close to $600,000 a year. The city at the time could not afford such additional operating costs. Then the recession hit. Had Manteca gone ahead with the Qualex conversion Manteca would have had less officers on the streets since they would have been required to comply with state law regarding jail staffing.

Councilman John Harris suggested one solution might be a satellite office.

Police Chief Nick Obligacion noted that patrol units are equipped to the point that they double as mobile offices for police. It is part of a long-range Manteca Police strategy to keep sworn police officers on the street as much as possible

There is no plan in place for a new police station. That is not the case for the next fire station.

Manteca already owns the land for the fifth fire station as it was deeded to them at no cost by Atherton Homes.

In both cases the city will need to identify ways of financing the new facilities to augment growth fees collected for that purpose.

“I want to make sure before the city builds a new fire station that we have the financial means to staff it,” Councilman Steve DeBrum said.

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