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Lathrop coming back strong from Great Recession

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POSTED February 9, 2013 1:15 a.m.

LATHROP – Want to measure the economic vitality of a community?

Try looking at what they have coming on the horizon.

While just five years ago Lathrop was facing a bleak outlook – staring at a $15 million deficit within five years if drastic corrective measures weren’t taken – the city is now sitting on a padded reserve with a full docket of projects coming down the pike.

There’s the $32 million Manthey Road bridge replacement. The $18 million Lathrop Road westerly grade separation. The $10.8 million water treatment plant.

And when residential home development finally gets under way later this year – the first 500 homes in the River Islands development have already been green lit – the community could once again be back on the track it was on before the market collapse in 2007.

At least that’s the way that City Manager Stephen Salvatore sees it, giving an item-by-item breakdown Friday morning at the Lathrop District Chamber of Commerce’s annual “State of the City” address at Lathrop High School.

“Development projects bring opportunity and give us a responsibility to bring planned and strategic development to the community,” Salvatore said during his opening remarks to the near capacity crowd. “But even though the development market slowed down, we didn’t. We secured funding for various projects to move forward.  That’s what we’re looking at today.”

Things across the board appear to be on the mend in the community.

The Lathrop “Generation” Center, the community complex that will provide a library as well as a teen center, just cleared another bureaucratic hurdle earlier this week and moved one step closer to construction. A $5 million state grant will cover a majority of the cost.

And when the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Department released crime stat comparisons at the end of the year to show the public how effective policing programs have been, categories were down across the board. Violent crime fell 11 percent, while property crimes like burglary and theft dipped seven percent in the first 11 months of 2012.

Having an effective police force, a solid relationship with the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District, a clear line of communication with the Manteca Unified School District and the ability to negotiate with Manteca rather than litigate over every little detail, Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said, provides the city with the recipe it needs to succeed moving forward.

“It’s about cooperation, not confrontation,” Dhaliwal said. “The state of the city is strong, but it’s not as strong as it needs to be. We’re on the right track, but we still need to work to get there.”

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