Manteca is taking back the Manteca Library.
The City Council on Tuesday is expected to award a bid to install a 7-foot high security fence with gates to secure the Manteca Library courtyard’s front entrance facing Center Street.
Homeless routinely gather in significant numbers to bed down for the night in an area not visible from the street that is bordered by the McFall Room, the main library, and the foyer connecting the two areas.
The ornamental wrought iron fence costing $6,191 will be installed by All Steel Fence Inc. The gates will be kept open during library hours.
Manteca Police Community Resource Officer Mike Kelley starts his 10-hour shift on the four days that he works rousting the homeless from the area. They usually park their belongings there as well.
Under city ordinances that comply with court rulings that essentially say the homeless have the right to sleep makes it illegal to camp, occupy camp facilities, or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas:
uThe Manteca Transit Center at 220 Moffat Blvd.
uThe Moffat Community Center at 580 Moffat Blvd.
uAny public property except when the person is sitting or lying on public property between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. of the following day. That means using areas such as public sidewalks for that purpose between those hours.
It is illegal for anyone to be in most city parks after sundown and before sunrise unless city ordinance allows the park to be open for public use until a later hour.
The fencing will essentially take the courtyard away from homeless as a place to bed down for the night.
It is the latest counter measure the city has taken to prevent the homeless from “taking over” the library to any degree.
Last year the door on the foyer was replaced with one that enhanced security and could not be adjusted by the homeless attempting to allow them to access restrooms without going through the main library. The foyer doors are kept locked to outside access but during the day they can be used as an exit.
Over the years Manteca Police have chased the homeless off the library roof where they to would sleep in cold weather near mechanical equipment. It also wasn’t unusual for them to urinate on the roof.
The homeless, like anyone else, can access the bathrooms when the library is open.
The city in 2014 started locking the restrooms in the adjoining Library Park except during special events such as this weekend’s street fair and the Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s weekly Music and market events during the summer.
The reason was simple. The homeless had managed to take over the restrooms often finding a way to lock themselves in at night.
City crews responsible for unblocking restrooms and making sure they were clean were encountering on a daily basis used needles, spent condoms and feces on the floor, urine splatters and trash strewn about.
There were serious concerns about the health of city workers — and the general public — being put at risk from accidental needle sticks.
The restrooms were opened in 2004 for $125,000 as part of a project to enhance Library Park as a town square of sorts for Manteca.
And it wasn’t just the Library Park where restrooms where the homeless and others were leaving signs of sexual intercourse, drug use and using floors as de facto toilets. Business that sell sheds that are displayed in front of their stores were — after repeatedly exposing workers to clean up the messes — forced to lock the sheds at night or remove them from display.
There also were reports of the restrooms being used for prostitution in addition to being a place for drug transactions and use.
City restroom problems weren’t just limited to Library Park.
The city had hired part-time employees to lock restrooms at Lincoln, Northgate, and Morezone parks each night when park closure hours rolled around. But they were finding it increasingly difficult to keep a worker on board given how homeless would harass them and often refuse to leave in an effort to spend the night in the restrooms.
That all changed in 2015 when the city starting using a uniformed security firm’s officer instead. Issues with the homeless interfering with the nightly closures of park restrooms dropped considerably after that.
The money for the fencing is coming from $147,200 that had been set aside to replace the library carpet. That work took place in November. Since the work was completed for $17,155 less staff decided some of that money could go a long way to securing the library by making the courtyard off limits to the homeless.
The library at its current location opened in 1962. It went more than a half a century without homeless taking over the courtyard at night.
The City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.