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Flushing toilets: Manteca comes first

Council nixes advancing Lathrop sewer capacity

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POSTED April 3, 2013 1:33 a.m.

Lathrop is in a quandary.

They have large scale distribution center development in the Crossroads Center wanting to move forward while housing construction - including the 11,000-home River Islands at Lathrop - is starting to fill the air with the sound of pounding hammers.

But Lathrop could be stymied by what may soon be a lack of sewer capacity. It’ll cost $20 million and take several years if not longer to expand an existing high tech treatment plant of their own. Even so, it’ll squeeze out only 250,000 gallons or enough to serve the equivalent of 1,000 homes. By comparison it would cost roughly $6 million based on connection fees to get the same capacity from the treatment plant Lathrop shares with Manteca.

Lathrop has about 1.45 million gallons of capacity set aside for their use in the regional treatment plant Manteca operates on West Yosemite Avenue. That presents the contractual  14.7 percent of the nearly 10 million gallon existing capacity of the treatment plant that Lathrop has the right to as long as they pay for it under a March 5, 1984 agreement. Of that about 750,000 gallons isn’t being used. But there is a caveat. Most of it has already been purchased by industrial users for future expansion including California Natural Products.

So Lathrop is in need of sewer capacity in the very near future.

But they won’t be getting it from Manteca’s unused portion of plant capacity which is about 3.5 million gallons.

The Manteca City Council on a 4-1 vote rejected a proposal to advance Lathrop its share of the next plant expansion from Manteca’s unused 3.5 million gallons. Mayor Willie Weatherford, who helped craft the proposal with elected leaders in Lathrop, was the lone vote for the deal.

It was clear where the majority of Manteca’s elected leaders were coming from.

“This will put Manteca in a position of being at a disadvantage,” Councilwoman Debby Moorhead said when it came to competing for future jobs.

The chance that Manteca would lack needed sewer capacity should major employment centers move forward if the city advances Lathrop upwards of  a million gallons or almost 28 percent of what Manteca has in reserve also concerned Councilman Steve DeBrum.

“This is my thinking: What is best for Manteca?” DeBrum asked rhetorically.

Councilman Vince Hernandez said he was “concerned about mortgaging the City of Manteca’s future” and that “we don’t know what is out there” in terms of potential firms that may want to locate in the region as the economy picks up.

Councilman John Harris, like his colleagues, appreciates the improved working relationship with Lathrop. But in the case of sewer capacity that is viewed by some to be as valuable as having water Harris said, “I don’t want to sell the farm.”

Any capacity advanced would have had to have been “paid back” to Manteca during the next expansion.

Weatherford took a more global view.

He contends Manteca not advancing Lathrop sewer capacity would cost Manteca residents jobs.

That’s because a San Joaquin Partnership survey about a decade ago noted that 28 percent of the new jobs in Lathrop distribution centers and manufacturing plants were held by Manteca residents. That was second only behind Stockton residents.

Weatherford expressed hope the council could revisit the basic Lathrop request and perhaps work out a different proposal that would accommodate Lathrop and Manteca at the same time. He also noted Lathrop could start pushing for the next expansion of the treatment plant.

Manteca’s left over capacity will serve the rough equivalent of 14,000 homes. Industrial use varies widely from dry operations such as distribution centers that essentially have only toilets and sinks to wet operations such as food processing.  Manteca currently has more than 17,000 housing units proposed that are in various stages of the planning and construction process. That is in addition to two major business parks - CenterPoint and Austin Road.

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