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City leaves war veterans defenseless against vandals

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City leaves war veterans defenseless against vandals

The city allowed razor wire to protect the Manteca Historical Society museum from vandalism.

DENNIS WYATT/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 6, 2017 12:20 a.m.

Would you donate $20 so those who served our country in wartime don’t have to live in fear?

The City of Manteca has left veterans defenseless while offering fairly weak excuses for its inactions while taking much more expensive steps — $30,000 plus — to protect itself from the same enemy.

The enemy are vandals whether they are homeless, druggies or simply the dregs of society — it doesn’t matter.

In the past week the enemy has destroyed two more $700 security lights and stole the American flag for the second time at the Manteca Veterans Center. Security video footage shows one vandal wearing what looks like a Three Musketeers mask. They obviously know what they are doing.

Manteca VFW Post Commander Carlon Perry said that he and his fellow veterans live in fear of being hit with big financial losses they won’t be able to cover.

What is driving their fear is that vandals may successfully reach the fenced in air conditioning unit. The unit has a replacement cost of $10,000 plus. At least once in the dozens of times the $1.3 million building on Moffat Boulevard was completed by the City of Manteca thieves have tried to breach the air conditioning unit to strip it of copper wire. While such wire may fetch $50 or less at a recycler, it renders an air conditioning unit useless and unrepairable.

The city is well aware of the damage copper theft can inflict. That’s why last year they spent $30,000 to put in place a lower “architecturally pleasing” cover over the bricked in area at the Manteca Transit Center just down Moffat Boulevard. Vandals had squeezed under the existing cover and were tamper with control devices for the center’s solar power system to reach copper wire.

Now for the fun part.

Under their lease with the city, the VFW is responsible for all maintenance. They already other security lights stolen that they are struggling to replace. That does mention other thefts from the locked garbage enclosure. If they have a hard time coming up with the money to replace the city-installed security lighting, replacing a $10,000 air conditioning unit 18 months after moving into the facility would be daunting to say the least. There is an even bigger question about a design that didn’t take copper theft into account given it has been an ongoing problem in Manteca for more than 12 years with Moffat Boulevard at times being ground zero given some of the nearby choice accommodations. Common sense would have told you to mount the security lighting higher and take steps to protect the air conditioning unit besides using just a cyclone fence with plastic slats.

It doesn’t help that the exterior design of the building — a wavy metal façade — creates near perfect footholds to scale the fence that is behind the building and away from traffic where the Tidewater Bikeway and Union Pacific Railroad tracks pass by.

The veterans in the winter of 2016 — that’s two city managers ago — asked permission to protect the air conditioning unit by using an effective military trick to establish defense perimeters. They asked permission to deploy concertina wire — expanded coils of razor wire — around the top of the fence.

The first response from the city was that zoning rules don’t allow concertina, razor or barbed wire. Once it was pointed out the city actually allowed the Manteca Historical Society to deploy razor wire across the fence at the back of their parking lot that abuts the alley in the 600 block of West Yosemite Avenue to avoid similar damage at the museum, the city shifted gears. They said they would come up with a more aesthetically pleasing solution as they didn’t want to create an ugly image along the Tidewater Bikeway that is for all practical purposes a greenbelt park. They would work on a more effective solution and get back to them.

That’s fine but that was roughly a year ago.

Since then the city took steps to protect the transit station. They also are so concerned about not trashing up the Tidewater that they let stolen cars be dumped along it and sit there for weeks while they are stripped and vandalized. That doesn’t mention the billboards that they allow on city property in what is a city park — the Tidewater Bikeway.

All the veterans asked for originally was the ability to protect themselves.

Since the city isn’t allowing them to do that, perhaps someone on the City Council will place an item on a future agenda allowing the veterans to secure Manteca Veterans Center air conditioning unit. They can refer to it as a “Resolution to Allow Manteca Veterans to Defend Themselves against Vandals”.

Given the city must be dirt poor after splurging on a $30,000 roof for the transit center trash enclosure, a fund can be started to buy the veterans the necessary concertina wire to do the job.

You can count on me for the first $20 contribution.

 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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