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Bonus bucks for fire station?
New homes could solve funding dilemma
The almond orchard along Pillsbury Road is being replaced with 356 homes. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Work will start next month on a new neighborhood that some believe could provide an answer to a pressing need — funding the construction of Manteca’s fifth fire station at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue.

Atherton Homes is starting site work for the first phase of 356 homes planned on 116 acres between Pillsbury Road and the future extension of Atherton Drive in southeast Manteca.

The development firm led by Mike Atherton agreed to a pumped up “bonus buck” fee of $7,500 per home that elected leaders can spend as they please on city amenities.

Atherton — traditionally the city’s largest home builder in terms of homes built in a given year — is almost out of available lots. 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.

Councilman Richard Silverman is among those who believe elected leaders “should give serious consideration” to committing the bonus bucks collected on the 356 homes to build a fire station on the site deeded to the city years ago by Atherton Homes that will be within a quarter of the mile of the finished neighborhood.

Fire Chief Kirk Waters has noted 30 percent design plans are almost finished for the station that won’t cost as much as the fourth station on Lathrop Road by Del Webb at Woodbridge as it will not have as elaborate architectural treatment. The Atherton/Woodward site faces two four-lane roads.

The 356 homes will bring the number of houses including apartments around Woodward Park that are out of the city’s targeted five-minute response time for fire to more than 1,400 homes. The five-minute benchmark represents a time after which the best results in fire and medical emergencies start deteriorating significantly.

Compounding response times to the Woodard Park area is an increase in rail traffic that now included periodic oil trains. The nearest station is on Powers Avenue. As more and more trains pass through Manteca, the Industrial Park Drive and Woodward Avenue crossings are blocked for longer periods given how a double track portion along that stretch is used to put trains on a siding while others pass often blocking the crossings for extended periods.

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 repalcing two Manteca fire engines that are in excess of 20 years old.

The bonus bucks, should the council ultimately decide to direct them to the fifth fire station and to purchase an engine for it, would directly benefit the 356 homeowners who will be paying the $7,500  bonus buck fee as part of mortgages that they typically carry for 30 years.

The City Council last week accepted a $1.27 million grant hat will allow the hiring of six firefighters for two years using Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. It is 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 plans to use 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 would also fill-in to cover the four existing fire protection districts that the existing stations serve when the engine is out on a call. The additional staffing will also take pressure off the city’s $1 million aerial fire truck.

Waters has noted 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.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email