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14 years & no progress toward expansion
Mantecas first permanent city hall still stands in the 100 block of Sycamore Avenue in downtown. It was built in 1924 at a cost of $20,000 and was used for 54 years. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Space was at a premium at the Manteca Civic Center in 1998.

Many members of the Vision 2020 Task Force were stunned to see some of the working conditions of municipal staff especially Manteca Police officers.

Police were literally fighting for elbow space in their cramped offices while evidence overflow was crammed into outside storage areas. Detectives were relocated to a vacant county agricultural inspectors building on Moffat Boulevard due to the shortage of space.

The task force favored expanding the Civic Center complex at 1001 W. Center St. to accommodate staff and services needed when Manteca added 30,000 new residents over a 20-year period.

City staff, though, questioned whether all services could be accommodated on the existing site as envisioned when a master plan was adopted in 1986 for the site completed in 1978. That master plan called for the addition of a 15,000-square-foot auditorium onto the recreation rooms that had originally been designed as the first phase of a performing arts center.

A 10,000-square-foot community center for general recreation uses, hall rental and such also was proposed.

Twelve years ago, city staff determined the site in Center Street needed at least two to three more acres to accommodate everything that elected officials eventually wanted built on the parcel to accommodate the services and needs of a community of 80,000.

In July of 2000, the City Council authorized staff to start preliminary work on a proposal that could essentially replace most existing structures at the Civic Center with larger two story buildings to handle growth for at least 30 years. The council, though, doubted that a performing arts center, community center or even a library as some suggested could be accommodated at the location.

The study finally completed in 2004 placed the price tag for the project at $34 million - $18 million for a criminal justice complex and $16 million to construct two-story city hall buildings.

The council balked at the price tag and directed staff to research options for the cramped police operations. Staff returned with a plan to purchase and remodel the 57,000-square-foot former Qualex film processing plant on Manteca Industrial Park Drive. That would have provided more than triple the amount of space than at the current 17,000-square-fpopot police complex.

Manteca bought the Qualex building using redevelopment agency funds. As they were preparing the drawings to remodel the building state law changed regarding holding cells built as part of any new police station. It required departments to provide 24/7 jail staff. The new law change didn’t impact existing police stations. That meant a move to a large police facility would add $500,000 a year in additional manpower costs to staff the jail. Instead of making a move that would increase operating costs the city stepped back.

Then 28 months ago budget cuts reduced the ranks of the sworn officers by 12 and eliminated other personnel as well. Overall the city trimmed over 80 employees from the municipal work force.

The pressing space need that existed in 1998 at the Manteca Police Department hasn’t gone away.

But neither new police facilities or a new city hall are part of the council adopted  deferred capital Improvement plan that consists of 18 projects including an aquatics center, library expansion, and performing arts complex with an overall cost of $102 million.

The city has, though, added portable buildings at the Civic Center complex and has done interior remodeling to maximize space utilization and to improve community access.