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Will Manteca deliver now that they mean business?

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POSTED July 1, 2009 3:48 a.m.
There was a time not too long ago that Manteca’s permit process for new development and the little guy read like a script for a B-grade horror flick.

Firms like In-n-Out Burger – used to reasonable time frames in other municipalities – discovered Manteca’s approval process was not only out of sync but moved at the pace of a snail on a sidewalk on a 110-degree day. The popular fast food company expected their Manteca store to go through the approval process in normal fashion and had hired a manager for the store. It ended up being delayed 18 months later forcing In-n-Out to reshuffle their plans and open a different store first.

And if that didn’t get you, the Abbott & Costello routine would. Debby Moorhead – when she was still a private citizen and not a council member – tried to get a simple permit for a patio cover. It was a process that took months and had so many twists and turns that it would take the rest of the column to share them.

That there were the “rules” that were used to brutally kill business initiatives or - if the applicant decided to fight – would add months to the approval process and force public meeting after public meeting over the most idiotic things. One example was the requirement that 24 Hour Fitness needed more parking when they went to convert an old Safeway on North Main Street into a fitness club. Common sense would tell you that a supermarket would have more parking needs than a fitness center. It didn’t matter. Rules are rules even if they don’t make any sense, waste resources, and cost business and consumers a bundle.

As ironic as it may sound, people who had been through the grind often have praise for individuals in the process but would grit their teeth at the culture and  a handful of people – including key managers – who clung to antiquated rules as if they were the gospel for eternity.

Today, there is a breath of fresh air at 1001 W. Center St. The jury is still out, but by all indications the city is moving on the right track to become consumer friendly whether it is someone seeking a re-roofing permit or a permit to replace a water heater or a business wanting to expand, a building or modify their present operations.

The one-stop permit center – that is now expected to debut Aug. 1 – is will to address many concerns as  it not only streamlines the physical part for consumers but also did a restructuring of how the city goes about conducting the public’s business by creating a more efficient organization using less people.

It wasn’t too long ago that a swimming pool permit could take six months. The target is to reduce the time lag to a matter of days. Manteca is well on its way to reaching such goals.

They are also taking the steps needed to make the city competitive in the private sector job market.

The groundbreaking for the expansion of B.R. Funsten & Co. on Wednesday morning underscored the new attitude.

Instead of taking 18 months to get a project through the approval process and built, Manteca is committed to making it happen in four months.

What happened? A change in key personnel helped remove the chains on existing staff that knew what was needed but couldn’t because of the culture in place.

The timing was perfect in a way. As Manteca started rethinking how it should conduct the public’s business, the earlier signs of the approaching budget Armageddon started popping up. The city got ahead of the curve and took proactive steps  - with a large dose of positive attitude – that essentially didn’t  take a “woe is us attitude” but instead set out to find ways to do more work more efficiently  with less staff.

Now it’s time for the big test. Manteca has the desire to meet a pressing Dec. 1 deadline for an employer and sales tax generator. The question is will they?
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