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Future may offer joint fire station in South Manteca
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The 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park could ultimately lead to a fire station built and operated jointly by the City of Manteca and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District.

Representatives of the  agencies have explored the concept of such a station. If it were to occur, it would address the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District’s ongoing difficulty at maintaining its rural South Manteca fire station on Union Road. The bulk of the residential portion of the Austin Road Business Park development would be to the east of the current station.

Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters noted the city is working on opening its fourth station on Lathrop Road west of Union Road this fall. The city’s next priority is to build a fire station at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue on property already set aside. That location would serve existing developed areas as well as the business park portion of the Austin Road project.

The station possibility as well as ongoing efforts for automatic aid was discussed June 13 during a meeting between San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission representatives, the fire chiefs of the two agencies, Lathrop-Manteca board members Gloryanna Rhodes and Bennie Gatto as well as Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford.

The meeting was called by LAFCo to address concerns raised by rural Manteca resident Marty Harris about the financial viability of the Lathrop-Manteca district as land is annexed to the city and taken off the fire district’s property tax rolls. Specifically his concerns focused on the browning out of the South Union Road rural station and the future financial support for a rural station on Lathrop Road at Austin Road northeast of Manteca.

In a  report being submitted Thursday to the full LAFCo board, the committee indicated that the two agencies were cooperating with each other and additional LAFCo intervention wasn’t required.

That’s because Manteca has been entering into 10-year agreements with fire districts that it takes land from through annexation. Such a deal was made with the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District for CenterPoint in northwest Manteca and the Ripon Consolidated Fire District in southeast Manteca for the Austin Road Business Park.

Harris was concerned about the impact of Lathrop-Manteca losing $70,000 in annual property tax receipts when the 480-lot Oakwood Shores development is annexed to Manteca. Both agencies have agreed to work out a multi-year deal to ease the impact on the Lathrop-Manteca district.

Currently Manteca units respond initially into rural South Manteca when the South Union Road station south of Nile Garden School is browned out due to a lack of staffing. Also in situations where one agency’s fire engine is closer to a call in the adjoining jurisdiction they are automatically dispatched first.

Unlike many other districts, the response is automatic instead of being mutual. That means the district or city doesn’t have to request the together agency to respond. It happens automatically.

Last year, Manteca engines handled 74 percent of the automatic aid calls with Lathrop-Manteca handling the rest. Prior to the current fiscal woes that forced the browning out of the rural fire station, the two agencies would often see-saw back and forth from year-to-year on which one handled the most automatic aid calls.

The Austin Road Business Park where a joint station could possibly be built includes:

• 3.5 million square feet of general commercial or about 26 times the square footage of the Manteca Costco store.

• At least 2,358 traditional single family homes and 1,840 multi-family dwelling units such as townhouses, apartments, and condos  that can accommodate up to 10,200 people ore just under a seventh of the city’s existing population.

• 8 million square feet of industrial/business park, and office use or space equal to 17 times the coverage area of the Ford Motor Parts distribution center on Spreckels Avenue,

• The potential to create up to 13,000 jobs or close to 50 percent of the existing jobs in the city. Between 3,000 and 6,000 of those jobs could come from the industrial and business park portion and up to 7,000 jobs from possible retail uses.

• Five parks with just over 49 acres compared to the nearby 52-acre Woodard Community Park.

• The potential for school-age children who will live in homes that are within the Manteca city limits to attend school at Ripon Unified School District campuses. Some 849 acres of the project are in the boundaries of the Ripon Unified School District while 202 acres are within Manteca Unified School District boundaries.

• Eighty-four acres that are zoned for mixed commercial and retail uses which means it could involve condos above stores or large condo, apartment, or townhouse projects interwoven with commercial uses.

• Zoning for up to 1,840 units of apartments or other high residential uses including 828 units possible in the mixed commercial zoning depending up how that ends up panning put. That’s about 1,500 less than all existing apartments now in place in Manteca.