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Fire engine, picnic shelters

Future bonus bucks will bolster public safety, parks

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POSTED May 8, 2013 2:27 a.m.

What could Manteca do with an extra $1.8 million?

Fire Chief Kirk Waters would buy a water tender to fight grass fires plus purchase a new fire engine.

Mark Hall of the Parks & Recreation Department would build new picnic shelters for Lincoln and Northgate parks and toss in a new restroom facility at Northgate.

Police Chief Nick Obligacion would purchase new patrol units and pay for additional officer training.

Those were all in response to a query from Councilman Vince Hernandez on how city staff could spend proposed bonus bucks being offered by Atherton Homes in exchange for assuring sewer allocations and water for 356 homes they’d like to build over the next five years in southeast Manteca.

The City Council on Tuesday directed staff to proceed with negotiating development agreements for two separate neighborhoods with Atherton Homes that would include $1.8 million in bonus bucks offered by the developer.

The idea of bonus bucks - first implemented in 1999 and then suspended in 2010 - was two-fold. It assured the developer of sewer allocations over multiple years for housing projects. The city received money for one-time expenditures.

John Harris and other council members expressed hope that the city wouldn’t spend it on balancing the budget as happened with $12.2 million of the $41.2 million in bonus bucks that were collected over 11 years starting in 1999.

Mayor Willie Weatherford indicated as much as he’d like to see the bonus bucks “not be blown” on balancing the budget there is nothing the current council can do to bind future councils of such a decision.

It was a legal point the City Attorney John Brinton verified.

Ideally, the mayor said the money should go toward one-time expenses that the city wouldn’t be able to afford to do otherwise and not to reoccurring expense. That was the original intent back in 1999. Subsequent budget shortfalls derailed the intent for about 30 percent of the funds previously collected.

Weatherford also cautioned the council not to spend the money until such time it was in hand.

After he had several department heads share off-the-cuff wish list items, Hernandez thanked Albert Boyce and Mike Atherton - the principals of Atherton Homes - for helping reinstated bonus bucks.

Hernandez was hopeful the move on their part would set a precedent for developers.

Atherton and Boyce working in concert with planner Ron Cheek devised the original bonus buck concept back in 1999.

Previous bonus bucks helped pay for part of the cost of the Union Road fire station, the skate park, Tidewater traffic signals, and soccer lighting at Woodward Park among other things. Bonus bucks also were used to establish an $8 million public safety endowment fund that is now paying the salaries of six police officers including the four man gang unit that was resurrected in July. The endowment is also helping build the new fire station on Lathrop Road via a loan that will be repaid as fire facilities fees are collected on new growth.

The bonus bucks as proposed would cover Atherton Homes at Woodward Park II consisting of 185 homes on 57.3 acres immediately west of Pillsbury Road south of Woodward Avenue. It would include the eastward extension of Tannehill Drive.

Atherton Homes at Woodward Park I is immediately south of Woodward Park II on 53.2 acres that also fronts Pillsbury Road but is located across from an orchard and not homes. That project encompasses 171 homes. It also borders the approved 1,048-acre Austin Road Business Park and the future southern extension of Atherton Drive south of Moffat Boulevard.

A separate bike path would connect a park in the neighborhood with the extension of the Atherton Drive Bike Path south toward Ripon.

The proposed public safety bonus bucks fee comes to $3,000 per home while the general fund bonus bucks are $2,000 per home.

Altogether, Atherton Homes is volunteering to pay $1,068,000 to bolster Manteca police and fire staffing plus contribute $712,000 for the municipal general fund for one-time expenditures.

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