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Is city undercutting FESM, MRPS?

Transit community room rental put on hold for now

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Is city undercutting FESM, MRPS?

The community room at the Manteca Transit Center that was dedicated Tuesday can seat up to 250 for a dinner.


POSTED August 7, 2013 2:07 a.m.

Plans to rent the Manteca Transit Center were derailed less than five hours after the $8.3 million building was showcased during an open house.

No one will be renting the state-of-the-art, 3,000-square-foot community room any time soon. That’s because the City Council, during their meeting Tuesday, rejected a proposed rent schedule that some contended competed unfairly against private and non-profit halls in Manteca by undercutting prices as well as offering local non-profits one free rental a year.

Manteca resident Ed Fichtner spoke out against the rental fee schedule as proposed noting “taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize” a city operation that would undermine non-profit halls such as the FESM and MRPS.

Matt Strickler, owner of The Emory that is rented for everything from weddings and parties to non-profit events, noted the proposed rent schedule was “below market” and that — coupled with a new state-of-the-art facility complete with audio visual bells and whistles — would set the stage for the city to drive him out of business.

He noted that the slightly larger facility essentially was being proposed to be rented at significantly lower costs.

Manteca city staff based their proposed rate schedule on a survey of nearby municipal halls in places such as Oakdale and Modesto as well as the Manteca Senior Center and Chez Shari. The Chez Shari hall is operated by Frank Guinta at the Manteca golf course clubhouse through a contract Guinta has with the city. The rent survey did not include private halls in Manteca such as The Emory or the FESM or MRPS social halls.

The proposed policy allowed for one free rental per calendar year for Manteca-based non-profit organizations. After that, Manteca-based non-profits would be able to rent the entire facility Friday through Sunday for a full day for $300. Out-of-town non-profits could secure the entire community room for $450 for a full day.

Fichtner said even though the transit hall could only seat a maximum of 250 for dinner, “you (the city) would probably get every crab feed in town” due to the offer of one free rental a year. Fichtner said while the city facility seats less than the FESM and MRPS halls, the savings in rent alone could easily offset reduced ticket sales.

The majority of the council expressed reservations about the fee schedule as presented.

Councilman Vince Hernandez said he didn’t want to see government resources being used to put other concerns out of business.

At the same time Mayor Willie Weatherford noted many smaller community groups such as the American Legion and those that have predominately senior citizens can’t afford existing hall rents. He wanted to make sure a balance was struck between not wanting to hurt non-profits or private sector halls and making sure that the taxpayer financed building could be accessible to citizens.

It was suggested a committee consisting of community representatives be formed to research the issue and report back to the council within 60 days.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin said without a rental policy in place the transit center community room can’t be rented.

The community room has capacity for 452 people seated without tables with that space being able to break down into two smaller rooms — one handling 318 and the other 134. The overall number of people that could be accommodated for dining ranges from 200 to 250.

The community room complete with available kitchen was identified early on in the planning process by the council as being a critical component of the facility. That was due to what the city perceived as a shortage of rental hall space in Manteca plus the need to create a downtown focal point.

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