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Hernandez makes the pitch
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Manteca Library Assistant Lois Kennedy helps some summer readers look for a book title at the Manteca Public Library. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Manteca may have a new library site but a library may never be built there.

Councilman Vince Hernandez is pushing for a formal designation of land originally set aside in the envisioned 760-home Villa Ticino West neighborhood across from the Manteca Unified office complex on Louise Avenue for use as a possible future library.

The pitch came Tuesday when the Manteca City Council unanimously agreed to approve updated plans for the project first authorized by the city in 2004. Developer Toni Rossi hopes to move the project forward to the point builders could start homes in 2016 at the earliest.

“It all depends upon the market,” Rossi said.

The fire station site was originally planned to provide coverage for northwest Manteca. The station that opened on Lathrop Road by Del Webb plus the existing Louise Avenue fire station just west of Main Street  provide coverage for the proposed 760-home project.

The site is located on the city’s western boundary with Lathrop. Currently, the city is trying to move forward with a fifth station at Woodward Avenue and Atherton Drive plus is exploring about the possibility of  a sixth station in southwest Manteca in the vicinity of McKinley Avenue and Woodward Avenue. A second station on Louise Avenue isn’t in the running currently.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted the public land use designation on the set aside land would allow the city to use it for various municipal purposes.

Hernandez believes formally getting it indentified as a possible library site will provide a higher profile for efforts to secure additional library facilities for Manteca. He hopes it would spur additional community grassroots efforts to work toward a library while making it clear it is a pressing municipal priority.

He emphasized, however, that it doesn’t mean that the Villa Ticino site is the most logical or best location for a branch library.

During budget discussions in June, Hernandez pushed for library facilities — other additional branches and/or modernization and expansion for the Center Street location — to be formally included on future five-year capital improvement project lists as something the city is committed toward making a reality sooner than later.

The desire and a need for additional library facilities was brought up by the public during workshops conducted for the city’s parks and recreation master plan that is now in progress.

When an effort was underway the last time to expand library options in Manteca, the late Barbara Hildebrand — a longtime library booster — advocated building a  new library on the southeast corner of Louise Avenue and Airport Way just a quarter of a mile east of the Villa Ticino fire station site.

Hernandez last month said he wants to see smaller branch libraries placed around Manteca to make them more accessible.

Inclusion on the capital improvement list is crucial to get a project moving toward fruition. They are essentially priorities that the council adopts for staff to work toward. It doesn’t mean that they will get completed within that five-year time frame but it does mean work toward a project will move forward and not be shelved.

Placement on that five-year plan also means the facilities can be included in factoring the park fee amount collected from new growth.

Library advocates such as Mas’ood Cajee believe the most effective library facilities would be smaller branches placed south of the 120 Bypass and in north Manteca along with a moderate expansion and modernization of the “main” branch library in Manteca.

Cajee noted such a strategy “greatly increases access” for people based on the distance to the existing library as well as barriers that are posed for those without cars — including youth — such as the 120 Bypass.

Other communities such as Stockton and Lathrop have built branch libraries as part of structures that provide other functions such as a community center or — in Lathrop’s case — a teen center.

Such smaller branches could carry an annual cost to operate and maintain of $500,000 according to information obtained from the Stockton-San Joaquin County Library System.

Manteca essentially provides the building and covers the maintenance costs including utilities. They also make a small contribution to the books fund for the Manteca branch collection as well as provide funding for staffing hours beyond what the county and City of Stockton underwrite.