Manteca’s elected leaders have given the highest priority to moving forward with the city’s fifth fire station.
The City Council rated the new station as the top rated priority for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1 during the budget workshop conducted last week.
Given it such a priority doesn’t necessarily mean ground will break on the new station within the next 17 months. Instead it is a direction to staff to make sure the station project keeps moving forward.
The station planned for the northwest corner of Woodward Avenue and Atherton Drive is not only in the fastest growing area currently in Manteca — builders are moving forward with work needed to prepare ground to build more than 600 homes — but it is also where the most current residents live that are outside the targeted five minute response time.
The city has adopted a general plan goal of a staffed fire engine being within a five minute response of developed neighborhoods due to research that shows that in fires or medical emergencies it is the threshold that — once it is crossed — has rapidly diminishing returns for a good outcome. That includes medical emergencies that constitute roughly 90 percent of the department’s calls for service as well as structure fires.
Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd told the council there are currently 2,500 homes in southeast Manteca that are outside the targeted five minute response times. That translates into roughly 7,500 people. The closest engines to the area are at the Powers Avenue station and the headquarters station on Union Road.
There were 1,000 calls for service during 2017 in the area that a fifth station would serve. The fire chief expects that number to increase to 1,200 for this year due to the rapid growth.
The city is facing a dilemma funding the station. While growth fees are collected on new homes to help pay for a fifth fire station, construction inflation has increased dramatically in the past year eroding the buying power of fees that are collected.
The station, for which 30 percent design work has been completed, was estimated to have cost $2.7 million a little over a year ago. The current cost estimate is running as high as $4 million.
The fund balance as of February for fire facilities fees charged growth was $1.6 million.
Shipherd also noted a fire engine that would be needed for the station would take at least 12 to 18 months to be delivered once they are ordered.
Besides needing an engine for a new station, the department has four engines that have over 100,000 miles. The average age of the city’s fire engines is 13 years with an average of 90,000 miles. That is factoring in a new engine the city took delivery of in 2017.
The cost to purchase and equip a fire engine is in excess of $500,000.
When the city was facing funding problems when getting ready to open the fourth station on Lathrop Road west of Union Road they opted to staff it initially with a two-man rescue squad. In doing so they were able to reach many of the emergency calls in that station’s service area within 5 minutes. Almost 9 out of 10 calls for service in Manteca are medical emergencies.
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