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Fee waiver for Manteca group sparks debate
The 2012 Manteca Jaguars junior varsity Super Bowl champions. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Manteca Jaguars are headed to Lathrop.

Sort of.

On Monday the Lathrop City Council voted 3-2, with councilwoman Martha Salcedo and vice mayor Steve Dresser dissenting, to allow the Manteca non-profit youth sports organization the use of the Scott Brooks Gymnasium and the Lathrop Community Center for a year-end party and to waive the $500 plus fee.

Because the program has participants from Lathrop, the Parks and Recreation Commission saw sufficient reason to forward the matter on to the council for approval and that was enough for councilman Omar Ornelas to go against the grain and push for the matter to not be tabled until the next meeting and instead call for a vote.

Not everybody in attendance was in agreement.

Dresser, who first raised questions about the fee waiver for an out-of-town organization, said he was concerned that granting such a request could set a precedent and prompt swells of similar requests from outside groups looking to enjoy the city’s jewels without having to foot the bill.

It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate the fact that the Jaguars didn’t offer a public service he said or even provide something to children from Lathrop, but rather he wasn’t ready to roll the dice on something prematurely until safeguards could be put in place to prevent abuse.

Others were a little more pointed.

Lou Davis told the council that the football and cheer organization that he’s involved with, the Lathrop Lions, has to pay to utilize the fields in any community in which they play – as do the teams that they’re playing. That money is then recouped through gate fees and fundraising. Skirting that issue for an organization that isn’t based in Lathrop, he said, wouldn’t be a slippery slope.

Bennie Gatto used even fewer words.

“Remember one thing – we are the taxpayers of this city. If you own property here, you pay taxes. If you don’t, then you don’t pay taxes. Don’t give away money that doesn’t belong to you,” Gatto said. “Mr. Dresser you hit the nail right on the head – that’s a lot of money, and you guys are just giving it away.”

When Dresser said that he’d be in favor of bringing the item back to allow staff to work with the Jaguars a little bit more closely to determine whether the bar for public good was actually met, Ornelas called for a vote. It was Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal who cast the tie-breaking vote, but not before he checked to make sure that the Parks and Recreation Department would be updating its policy to reflect standards in the event that a similar scenario were to arise again in the future.