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City taking over LMDs to save park jobs

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POSTED June 16, 2009 1:40 a.m.


Manteca will avoid laying off four park workers when the city takes over the day-to-day care of 30-plus landscape maintenance districts that cost homeowners collectively jaust under $1 million a year to fund.


The four private firms doing the work were notified in late May that their contracts will not be needed as of July 1.


That’s when the equivalent of four current municipal parks maintenance workers will start handling the work. Three maintenance workers will be assigned 100 percent of their time to the landscape maintenance districts (LMD) while a lead park worker and an irrigation technician each will be assigned halftime.


The irrigation technician is expected to help the city monitor the water use to substantially reduce waste to save the LMDs $15,000 a year.
The move also means the maintenance levels in the city’s nearly 50 neighborhood parks as well as three community parks the city maintains will be reduced. The 30-acre Big League Dreams sports complex though city owned is maintained by BLD. The arrangement effectively helps the city avoid $17 million in maintenance costs over a 35-year period.


The shifting of the jobs will save the general fund $350,000 a year. It was already factored into over $8 million in budget savings the council has cobbled together from leaving positions open, putting in place new charges for services where they legally can and restructuring operations. The city has at least another $2 million-plus to cut for the fiscal year the starts in 14 days.


The deficit could balloon again to $5.5 million if the state follows through on a threat to borrow $1.2 million of Manteca’s property tax receipts and the outright hijacking of up to $1.4 million of the local share of gas taxes.


“The times call for strong decisions,” noted Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford of the city’s move to assume control of the LMDs.


Although he has never been an advocate of the move, the mayor indicated the situation calls for people being pragmatic and to do what they can to keep service levels as high as possible while living within the city’s means.


The move essentially saves four jobs at the cost of the public sector. City leaders insist the municipal workers cost will be within 5 percent of the private contracts with some of that offset by water savings and what they believe will be improved service levels.


Currently, LMDs are maintained once a week. City crews assigned will constantly be on the lookout for problems as they go from one LMD to another.


The trend also may be toward having more parks workers employed by LMDs than the general fund. There are now at least four new neighborhoods where the park maintenance is paid by nearby homeowners via LMDs. If the trend continues, Manteca may be in a position to keep the park maintenance staffing flat until such time they add another community park.


Weatherford urged people to call the city if they are having problems with LMD upkeep.


“We have an obligation to perform the level of maintenance that the people in the districts are paying for,” the mayor said.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com


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