View Mobile Site

Manteca making LMD takeover work effectively

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED March 9, 2010 2:15 a.m.
Snall weeds - fueled by rain and a rise in temperatures - started popping up in the concrete portion of the Wellington Avenue bike path about 10 days ago.

Had the private firm once contracted by the city to handle upkeep of the landscape maintenance district (LMD) along Wellington Avenue been on the job the weeds would have been history within seven days.

You will not see many weeds – if any – in the actual landscaping area. That’s because Kevin Fant – the certified arborist on the city staff – had 15 years in the private sector competing against other firms when it came to landscape maintenance and design for cities.

The city under Fant’s leadership undertook pre-emptive measures to battle weeds whereas others that were effective in handling landscape maintenance district work literally groomed it every week. It’s all about working smarter to reduce costs.

Why, you might ask, do you care about all this?

The answer is simple. Manteca’s LMD strategy gives you a good snapshot of the direction the city is heading when it comes to the delivery of services. The new reality requires working smarter, doing with fewer resources, and prioritizing what is important.

The city stopped contracting out LMD work nine months ago. They shifted some general fund park workers to the task and hired some part-time seasonal workers. The end result was keeping costs in line and saving jobs although you could argue some private sector jobs were lost. At the same time, Manteca prioritized park maintenance. The park service level has fallen somewhat but it is still a notch above nearby cities.

It should be noted that under state law the property owners paying into LMD must get the level of service they are paying for.

Responses to complaints are also quicker although they weren’t any with the firm that handled Wellington Avenue and a number of other LMDs.

And those weeds in the cracks will disappear in a week or two. One might argue that it represents a slightly lower level of service but in all honesty not all LMDs that were contracted out were cared for by firms as good as the one on Wellington Avenue.

Overall, the city hasn’t skipped a beat.

And surprisingly, one person who’ll agree with that is Mike Atherton who was one of the most vocal critics of the city takeover of the LMDs. It’s not that he didn’t have faith in city workers. The problem was how the city overall executed its work effort.

Now he will tell you he doesn’t see much of a difference which is a good thing in his book. Why Atherton’s opinion should matter is simple. He is arguably the father of current landscaping efforts in Manteca. It was his efforts along Spreckels Avenue – which is maintained by a private LMD funded exclusively by Spreckels Park property owners – that created the lush landscaping you’ll see on both sides of the high-profile corridor. Before that, the conventional wisdom was you couldn’t do that type of landscaping in Manteca. Atherton made it work and found a way not to impact the general fund. It is also the first LMD in the city to cover the maintenance of a bike path.

Some developers believe it is an act of blasphemy to impose LMDs on common landscaping areas and neighborhood parks as the city is now doing. They claim that it is driving up the cost of home ownership and therefore is impeding their efforts to make a living. Nor do they like that the city is also tossing storm retention basin maintenance – which is different than neighborhood park maintenance – as well as street light maintenance and operation  in the neighborhood where new homes are built - into the mix.

The city can’t keep adding new infrastructure and not have a way to offset the cost of paying for its upkeep and replacement.

Some developers will say that Manteca has too many parks. Guess what? That’s not their call. If they don’t like the idea that Manteca as a city of 67,000 has twice the number of parks as cities four times their size then they can simply build elsewhere.

One could argue with a funding stream in place, the neighborhoods with LMDs that cover everything from park maintenance to street lights - will have a much higher value down the road than neighborhoods that don’t have such LMDs in place.

The LMD assures that things will be taken care of and that conditions of neighborhood infrastructure won’t deteriorate. That helps homes retain value over the long haul.

With all due respect, Manteca decided long time ago that it didn’t want to simply create tract subdivisions such what happened in Mayors Park where redundancy and minimal design efforts went into its planning. That’s not knocking Mayors Park. It’s just the way things used to be done.

If some developers had their way new projects would have sound walls jammed against sidewalk, the city would have to figure how to maintain parks and street lights, plus they’d build houses that look like boxes.

Developers who criticize the LMD strategy want the world to go back to the old way of doing things where it was bulldoze over the countryside, slap up a bunch of tract homes, make a quick buck and then leave town while setting the stage for municipal failure and blighted conditions down the road.
Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...