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So what is it? Jobs, jobs, jobs or houses, houses, houses?

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POSTED April 4, 2013 1:53 a.m.

There’s an election for mayor coming up in less than two years.

Given that Manteca has a 12.8 percent unemployment rate - that’s higher than Lathrop’s by the way - one of the central issues should be jobs.

Or to quote former Mayor Carlon Perry as Manteca was struggling to come out of the previous recession in the early 1990s, the issue is “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“Jobs, jobs, jobs” wasn’t on the mind of the Manteca City Council Tuesday night. It was more like “houses, houses, houses.”

Two council members from Manteca - Mayor Willie Weatherford along with Councilman Steve DeBrum - had hammered out a sewer capacity advancement proposal with Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal and Councilman Steve Dresser.

Lathrop has some employment center and retail opportunity coming down the line but they are caught in a squeeze. Much of their remaining capacity in the Manteca wastewater treatment plant is committed. Lathrop’s own high tech treatment plant using membrane technology is 80 percent committed to River Islands at Lathrop in terms of existing and future capacity. That plant could serve employment center jobs on River Islands but those are a long way off.

Meanwhile the Lathrop Crossroads Business Park is positioned to bring in employment centers sooner than later. Lathrop, though, lacks adequate sewer capacity.

So they asked Manteca if they could advance them their 14.7 percent share of the next plant expansion out of Manteca’s unused capacity. Manteca’s remaining capacity is enough for 14,000 more homes to flush toilets or almost 60 percent of the existing households.

Unlike Lathrop’s sewer capacity where those securing it would be left holding the bag if growth doesn’t occur, Manteca’s capacity is predicated on growth happening. If for some reason growth falls off, Manteca ratepayers would be on the hook for all of the bonds and not just those used to upgrade the portion of the plant serving the existing population.

At one time Manteca did have developers tie up sewer allocation by putting money on the table. But bonus bucks went away almost four years ago. Developers had correctly pointed out bonus bucks were making it impossible to build homes for a profit in a severely weakened housing market. The council, though, framed their decision to essentially lift bonus bucks paid for sewer allocation certainty not as a housing issue. Instead they wanted to put people back to work plus create a revenue stream to support the whittled back municipal labor force so services didn’t suffer even more.

It is true no one knows what the future holds but the council seems to act as if they are more concerned about building houses than jobs.

A distribution center doesn’t have a huge demand on the sewer. All they do is flush toilets and send sink water down the drain. They’d be hard pressed to match the daily sewer output of nine or 10 homes.

One would hope if a wet user comes along with jobs that Manteca would use land disposal as they did with Eckert’s. That’s because depending upon what is involved in the wastewater from food processing, it can play havoc with the treatment process and quickly gobble up capacity.

And even if it had to go through the treatment plant, how much of 3 million gallons would a cannery or such consume?

What makes this all ironic is how some members of the current council responded when Perry back a decade or so ago questioned the wisdom of sending $30,000 a year to the San Joaquin Partnership to seek out employers and jobs. Perry was correct in noting at the time the partnership hadn’t generated one job in Manteca. The Partnership - at the request of the council - responded with a survey of employers the Partnership had helped Lathrop land. That survey showed 28 percent of the jobs in Lathrop were held by Manteca residents.

Manteca was second only to Stockton as the place of residence of workers in Lathrop. Next on the list were Tracy and then Lathrop.

In short, the odds are greater that more Manteca residents will be employed at distribution centers and manufacturers that may build in Lathrop than Lathrop residents.

Manteca residents work in Lathrop, Stockton, Livermore, San Jose, and Tracy as well as vice versa.

The council back then embraced the regional approach to jobs.

Perhaps the deal proposed wasn’t crafted well enough to make it clear what is at stake.

If the proposal came back and was worded to restrict Lathrop’s advancement of sewer capacity exclusively for retail and employment centers would that change the position of the council majority?

It would also solve a side issue of home developers in Manteca worried that home developers in Lathrop may be able to build at one point and not them because Manteca advanced Lathrop sewer capacity.

Which brings us to the Manteca political question du jour: Are Manteca’s elected leaders  about “jobs, jobs, and jobs” or are they all about “houses, houses, houses”?



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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