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Fear of future paralyzes council on securing cost info on dog park, trees along Moffat
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Crossroads Grace Community Church was willing to lend Manteca a 600-man strong army of volunteers to make a big difference in a long neglected part of the city along Moffat Boulevard.

The church’s 2nd Saturday Ministries literally has harnessed hundreds of volunteers monthly for everything from gleaning fruit for the needy to painting apartments for HOPE Family Shelters.

They had hoped to assist Manteca with one big project – the possible planting of 250 trees along the barren Moffat Boulevard leg of the Tidewater Bikeway – in October.

Now it looks as though the dog eat dog world of government financing has stopped plans cold on both the dog park and the tree planting project after a 3-2 vote by the Manteca City Council Tuesday night essentially barred staff for securing more information on costs as a precursor to a final decision by the elected officials on whether to proceed with the projects.

Councilman John Harris had moved and Mayor Willie Weatherford seconded a motion to approve plans and specifications to set the stage for the council to possibly call for bids.

Councilman Vince Hernandez – a long-time champion of the Moffat corridor – doesn’t like the idea that annual maintenance of the dog park was going to cost up to $15,000 or that the city might end up spending as much as $5,000 a year maintaining the Moffat Boulevard irrigation lines. The maintenance figure for Moffat was on the high end in the event there was a major failure of the water lines primarily through vandalism.

Councilman Steve DeBrum agreed noting he wanted the staff to come up with more cost figures first before making a decision which they now are effectively barred from doing when he joined Councilwoman Debby Moorhead and Hernandez in voting down the motion.

Weatherford attempted a second time to move forward with gleaning more information on the Moffat project minus the dog park. That too failed by the same 3-2 vote.

Crossroads Church and city officials were scheduled to meet today to discuss their possible role. Had the council proceeded, part of the discussions was expected to include seeing if the church was willing to adopt in part whole some of the ongoing maintenance after the trees were planted.

DeBrum and Hernandez voiced concerns that the state may yet decide to take more money from Manteca including the bike and pedestrian portion of Local Transportation Funds (LTF) tied to sales tax revenue.

Finance Director Suzanne Mallory noted the city’s share has been shrinking over the years. The Moffat project would have used $25,000 to install the irrigation system and $18,000 to buy 250 trees, stakes, and planting material. All of the money would have come from the LTF account as well as ongoing maintenance.

The dog park bothered the trio as well with Hernandez saying he had been approached by people who didn’t understand why the city needed a dog park when people could walk their dog on leashes at any park in the city. A dog park allows dogs to run free in a self-contained area. Hernandez added some dog owners questioned the fairness of adding a $1 surcharge to dog licenses to play for a facility they would not use.

Funding for the dog park would have come from $511,000 in growth-related park fees set aside for a water play feature at Woodward Park. The water feature is proving problematic to proceed with given the county’s health requirement that it be maintained like a swimming pool requiring daily maintenance attention in terms of chemical treatment. That pushed the annual upkeep past the $50,000 mark. Weatherford, a long time a champion of the water play feature, all but conceded that it was probably cost prohibitive Tuesday adding that it made sense to divert $102,300 of that to a facility that could be used year round.

Harris agreed noting it would be another step toward completing Woodward Park.

At one point Manteca resident Roberta Matthews interjected that a group of dog park supporters were working to form a group to assist with the ongoing maintenance. She offered her e-mail address of to anybody who wanted to get in touch with her.

Fleener Richards – who owns three dogs –said the city’s priorities were out of sync.

He said if a $1 surcharge on dog licenses was going to go for anything he’d prefer it to go to expanding or replacing the animal shelter.

“Hundreds of Manteca dogs are killed there each year,” Richards said, because of inadequate room to hold animals much longer than the state mandated minimum before destroying them.

Staff studies have shown Lathrop is using more than its share of the facility they are paying for meaning Manteca dogs suffer as a consequence. Richards suggested breaking the contract with Lathrop to create more room for Manteca dogs.