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Library plans taken out of circulation

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POSTED May 17, 2013 12:47 a.m.

Manteca is celebrating an anniversary this year that is one for the books.

It was in 2003 that the city adopted tentative plans for a two-story, 52,000-square-foot library with a price tag of $21 million on the site of the existing library last expanded in 1977. That addition 36 years ago was designed to serve a population of 32,000. Manteca today has 71,000 residents.

Manteca’s plan to finance the new library was simple. It was to take a shot at state library bond money to pick up the bulk of the cost. Manteca almost made the cut during two application rounds. It also included raising the government facilities fees on new growth that was the target of a developer lawsuit in 2009 in which the city ultimately prevailed. That growth fee can’t be jacked up under state law more than what can be justified as to what demand a single housing unit will place on government facilities. In other words, growth can’t legally pay for the portion of the building that would be used by those living in the existing housing stock.

The growth fee is designed to cover part of the tab for various projects including a new police station, a new city hall, the new animal shelter, a performing arts center, and a new library. This is where the real rub comes in. You obviously would not be smart if you divided up the $4,702 per home base fee implemented in 2009 with an inflation factor among the various projects concurrently. It would be decades before you’d collect enough money to leverage most of the projects on the list. And that is in addition to the problem of securing funding for the share of each of the projects that growth can’t legally be charged.

As for bonus bucks, if the $12.2 million of the $41 million collected during the go-go building days of 1999 to 2006 wasn’t used to balance the municipal general budget over multiple years but instead went to the library you’d still be $9 million short.

Short of a benefactor like the one Ripon has in Tony Mistlin or securing a federal or state grant the only way to drum up the money realistically is through a parcel tax or a bond election.

So what is the best way to secure a new library besides wishing and hoping especially given other pressing demands?

Think out of the box. Way out of the box.

Over the years the talk has been for a need for a central library that would serve all of the community preferably in the downtown area. There also has been a real failure for the movement for a new library to get much traction politically because it isn’t a big priority with a lot of people.  And the money to build a grand, inviting library complex isn’t going to materialize overnight.

One possible solution is a multi-use project that can serve the needs of both the schools and the community. Of course, you will hear all the reasons it can’t work. But what about the reasons you’d want it to work? Pooling resources obviously through bonding would get a much more comprehensive complex.

There is a downtown site that might be perfect - Manteca High. It is perfect because the athletic fields on South Garfield are adjacent to Lincoln Park. A combined library, performing arts center and even community center could be built where the varsity baseball field is next to the stadium. Replacement fields could be provided by using part of Lincoln Park.

There is plenty of parking after school is out in the student parking lot.

It would allow the school district to possibly develop a magnet performing arts program on the Manteca High campus for all highs schools in the district. It is located in central Manteca on top of downtown and just off the Tidewater - the backbone of the city’s expanding separated bike trail system

If the logistics of such a mega-project make you queasy or bring the territorial instincts of school and city officials to the forefront, there is another possibility to secure a library and it wouldn’t take a lifetime to happen.

The city could use its $3.6 million storage space - the 57,000-quare-foot former Qualex building that they originally bought at 555 Industrial Park Drive with thoughts of turning it into a police station - as the next library. It is fairly centrally located.

But instead of using growth fees or bonus bucks to do the renovations Manteca could steal a page from Ripon’s playbook. McRoy-Wilbur Communities - instead of paying growth fees per se - paid for and did most of the remodeling to turn the former Ace Hardware on Main Street into a modern library. It was part of a deal that allowed them to build homes.

It might shock you but the private sector can do things a lot quicker and less expensive than government that is often tied down by regulations governing contracts and such.

Things don’t happen with inertia. There needs to be a serious sustainable and dynamic library movement similar to what is taking place with the Ripon Community Athletic Foundation in renovating the Ripon High stadium. Simply stewing about the fact there isn’t a new library will get you nowhere. Nor will insisting on a stand-alone $21 million facility.



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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