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Council to staff: Address Union Ranch Park safety
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Summer vacation is a few weeks away and parents in the Union Ranch neighborhood are fearing for their children’s safety.

The concern is what was supposed to have been a completed Union Ranch Park. Instead they have a 7.38-acre site across from their homes with long and deep trenches that have been uncovered for months.

“A child could go out there and get hurt and you wouldn’t even know it,” Councilwoman Debby Moorhead said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Moorhead, who met with frustrated Union Ranch neighbors the night before, concurs with their concerns.

She called it a safety issue that must be dealt with immediately.

Moorhead wasn’t alone.

Her council colleagues- voicing various degrees of frustration with the lack of progress on Union Ranch Park - also made it clear to staff that the safety situation was unacceptable

While the land is destined to be a city park it isn’t in Manteca’s control yet. Grover Landscaping is doing work on land that is owned by both Woodside Homes and Atherton Homes until such time the park improvements are completed and accepted by the city. But even so, Mayor Willie Weatherford noted the city is third in line for blame if something goes wrong.

The council offered three possible courses of action – having the contractor cover up open trenches at the end of each work day, erecting a fence around the park site, and – at the very least – posting no trespassing signs to alert people that construction is underway and that the “park” is not for yet ready for public use.

The park in the north Manteca neighborhood east of Del Webb at Woodbridge was supposed to have been completed last month. Now work may not be done until mid-2013

Meanwhile the city has already collected $358.78 from each home and undeveloped lot in the neighborhood for the first year’s maintenance of a park that doesn’t yet exist. The money was supposed to be spent on maintenance for the park prior to June 30 as well as to build an operating reserve.

The council earlier this month directed the staff to look into refunding part of the money and keeping the rest to pay of initial costs once the city takes over maintenance. Staff was given a legal opinion that the council might not be able to give a refund under state law.

That prompted Union Ranch residents to ask the council to at least not access any levy for the landscape maintenance district for fiscal year 2012-13 since work won’t be completed until April or May of next year.

The council, made it clear that refunds were still on the table as possibility.

And if they can’t issue refunds, resident Bruce Lownsbery told the council the least they could do is not make assess any LMD fees for the fiscal year starting July 1. Lownsbery also felt the council should find a way to refund money paid by homeowners for park maintenance but will never get to use it since they sold their homes in the past year and moved away.

The council instructed staff to return to the June 5 meeting addressing those issues as well as what one resident has described as a “bait and switch” on the security lights after they were told the LMD fees would cover “decorative” lights not just along neighborhood streets but in the park as well.

Neighbors are upset that the security lights are standard fare after they were told they would be much more. City staff has said the lighting selected provided the most security and is used at other city parks.

Mayor Willie Weatherford instructed staff to provide the council with cost figures for decorative security lights that assumedly would blend with the Tidewater-style street lights in the neighborhood.

The city used Tidewater motif compatible security lighting as part of the Library Park renovation and expansion.