Lathrop Manteca Fire District is weeks away from breaking ground on upwards of a $7 million investment in a new headquarters fire station.
The station — planned for the intersection of Golden Valley Parkway and Somerset on the edge of the business park and town center on River Islands — is the district’s second new fire station in 10 years.
By contrast Manteca has only built one fire station in the past 10 years despite growing by 13,000 residents since 2006. Lathrop has only added half as many people.
The River Islands station will go in before thousands of homes are built that are outside the targeted five-minute response time for medical emergencies and fires that allows the most optimum results. There are already 500 homes occupied in River Islands with ground breaking on another 800 homes in the planned community of 11,000 housing units.
By contrast, Manteca’s fifth fire station site at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue has been in the city’s possession since 2001 after it was gifted to Manteca by Atherton Homes. The envisioned station’s targeted service area has more than 1,400 existing homes — most of which are outside of Manteca’s targeted 5-minute response time. In addition upwards of another 1,000 homes are now being fast-tracked by developers.
Citywide, Manteca fire engines are now arriving at emergency calls within five minutes 82 percent of the time based on a department report issued earlier this year. But when it comes to the 1,400 homes south of Woodward Avenue and east of Main Street, fire crews arrive on scene within five minutes less than 10 percent of the time.
Manteca has already
spent $149,195 for
partial station design
The Manteca City Council in March approved spending $149,195 to have RPM Design Group provide 30 percent of the design work for the southwest Manteca fire station. The new station will cost $2.6 million and would be a scaled down version of the Lathrop Road station. It will be designed to blend in with residential housing and will have low-water use landscaping. The city also has to come up with close to $500,000 to purchase and equip a front-line fire engine for the fifth station. The current fire fee on new growth isn’t collecting enough funds while the capital equipment fund is already being stressed by pressing needs including eventually replacing two Manteca fire engines that are in excess of 20 years old. One of those engines has already been replaced.
Manteca has yet to
identify funding source
The city council has yet to identify funding to cover the construction tab indicating they don’t have adequate funding from fire fees collected on new growth to build the station and buy a new fire engine.
That’s not because the city doesn’t have a possible source. In 2015 Atherton Homes volunteered to a pumped up bonus bucks fee of $7,500 per home for Woodward Park I and II that elected leaders can spend as they please on city amenities. The fee is paid in exchange for sewer allocation certainty. Given the fact Manteca is no longer pushing the 3.9 percent sewer growth cap given almost 1,000 housing units would have to be built in a year, most developers are opting not to pay the fee. At today’s new home sales pace, Atherton Homes would be able to sell 356 homes in three years or less. The bonus bucks from Woodward Park I and II would generate $2.6 million. That ironically happens to be the cost to build the fifth fire stations at the site that happens to be a quarter of a mile away from the Atherton projects.
River Island agreed to collect a 31 cent per square foot charge from new home builders to finance two fire stations and needed equipment for the 4,200-acre project.
Cambay Group Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso noted the development firm will front the money that isn’t collected to build and equip the new fire station and then be reimbursed by builders as permits are issued for new homes.
While developers aren’t in a position to do that in Manteca, the City Council could easily designate the $2.6 million in bonus bucks to the fifth station. By doing so they could borrow money from existing reserves and pay it back as they have done in the past when the homes are built. Given that Atherton Homes has a 28-year history of building and are constantly the No. 1 or No. 2 new home builder based on volume the likelihood of the $2.6 million being collected in the next four years is extremely high.
The bonus bucks have been held up by councils since 1998 as a way to have growth pay for amenities that Manteca would not otherwise have gotten. In the past they have paid to help pay for part of the Union Road fire station because fees the city was collected for fire services had been kept artificially low at a flat $350 per home through years of growth in the late 1980s and 1990s. The bonus bucks have also been used to pay for traffic signals along the Tidewater Bike Way, the skate park, and soccer lights at Woodward Park and Northgate Park among other amenities. The lion’s share of $11.5 million, however, was used by the city to cover general fund budget shortfalls so they could keep hiring municipal staff and grant pay raises.
Last Manteca move
on fees for fire services
was to reduce the
charge for new homes
The last time Manteca adjusted the fire fees charged for single family homes was 2011. And instead of increasing them they cut them from 30 cents a square foot to 25 cents a square foot.
That’s because staff was convinced by a consultant to assign costs based on land use. The fee structure put in place gave new nursing homes the highest fee at $1,806 per bed because they historically have the highest call for services. It increased commercial fees from 13 to 18 cents per square foot and tripled industrial fees to 9 cents per square foot.
Since 2011, though, virtually the only construction in Manteca has been single family homes which has compounded the impact of cutting the fees back 15 percent given anticipated business park and commercial construction hasn’t occurred.
Then Mayor Willie Weatherford warned against using the methodology the city employed saying less than 4,000 calls a year was too small of a model to base cost assignments by land use. Weatherford was the only council member to vote against the fee reduction.
The new fee in 2011 was projected to generate $7.1 million toward the $9.1 million tab for two fire stations as well as purchasing an engine and equipping each station. The projection indicated it will take until 2030 to generate $7.1 million from growth.
The City Council in September 2015 accepted a $1.27 million grant that allowed the hiring of six firefighters for two years using Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. It was designed to allow Manteca to reach the National Fire Protection Agency standard for firefighter deployment. That standard is to have 15 firefighters on a first-alarm residential structure fire for a more effective response as well as to enhance firefighter and citizen safety.
The fire department used the additional manpower to base the 2-man rescue squad at either the Powers Avenue or Union Road station in order to serve the Woodward Park area. The rescue squad also fills in to cover the four existing fire protection districts that the existing stations serve when the engine is out on a call.
At the time, staff pointed out the bump in staffing could potentially provide enough staffing to open the fifth fire station using the same combo strategy of partial coverage by a rescue squad that allowed the Lathrop Road station to open.
The new Lathrop Manteca station is being designed with a large conference room that the district will make available for community use.
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