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Del Webb folks lobby council to avoid laying off 6 firefighters

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POSTED June 22, 2011 1:59 a.m.

Denise Drury doesn’t see the issue over whether Manteca can afford to keep six firefighters after July 1 as being purely about money.

To the Del Webb at Woodbridge resident it could make a difference between life and death for herself and her neighbors.

“If we don’t have firefighters (help in time people) are going to die,” Drury told the Manteca City Council Tuesday night.

With just eight days left before pink slips impacting 15 municipal workers including six firefighters go into effect, Mayor Willie Weatherford said that no firefighter has lost their job officially. Although he didn’t elaborate, other city officials have indicated that every effort is being pursued in a bid to avoid the six firefighter layoffs from happening.

The city needs to put in place an extensive reduction package that totals $4.2 million in order to balance the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Since almost 85 percent of the city’s general fund expenses are personnel costs, it has to be done in some manner through a reduction in compensation that employee bargaining groups must agree to give up.

Drury pointed out that the pending expansion of the nearby Union Pacific intermodal facility for freight shipped by trucks would mean more trains. That in turn would further reduce response times to northwest Manteca where Del Webb is part of some 5,000 homes outside the targeted five-minute response time.

If the Louise Avenue station engine is tied up, the next closest engine to handle a call in Del Webb is the South Union Road station just north of the 120 Bypass. One of the two engine companies located there - the 100-foot aerial platform truck - will be parked if the six firefighter positions are cut on July 1.

That next closest remaining engine, however, could easily be blocked by trains.

She’d like to see the city move forward as quickly as they can to build and staff a fourth fire station on Lathrop Road adjacent to Del Webb. The six firefighters that could be laid off were part of the effort to gear up for the fourth station’s staffing when it is built.

Del Webb at Woodbridge Homeowners Association coordinator Kayo Armstrong implored the council to do what they can to avoid the firefighter layoffs that she noted would be a huge detriment to the community’s residents.

Armstrong pointed out that with an average of 1.7 residents per household - which is below the city average - Del Webb has minimum impact on municipal services. She did note there are a higher percentage of residents who access the city’s emergency service primarily for medical assistance.

She added that two of the key reasons why many people bought in Del Webb were the city’s hospital and medical services and the emergency response system.

There were also several other Del Webb residents who asked the council to do whatever they could to avoid the layoff of firefighters.

Echoing the Del Webb concerns was Dottie Thompson, a resident of Manteca’s original single family home community restricted to those 55 and older - Camellia Gardens on East Yosemite Avenue.

She told the council that firefighters have saved the lives of numerous Camellia Gardens residents since the 80-home gated community opened.

“Please rethink or (rework) the budget if you can,” Thompson asked.

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