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Workers coming in from the cold
Corp yard project eliminating aging horse barn
This vehicle maintenance building at the city corporation yard has been in use for more than 90 years. It is being replaced under a consolidation plan. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The days of city crews working “inside” in the fog on $300,000 fire engines and other municipal vehicles are coming to an end before the winter of 2013 rolls around.

The Manteca City Council Tuesday approved the next step in a sweeping cost-saving move for public work operations consolidation designed to improve efficiency, replace an inadequate and out-dated hodge-podge of corporation yard buildings straddling Wetmore Street, improve working conditions and ultimately improve employee morale.

In doing so, the general fund is expected to start saving $600,000 a year beginning in 2014 in terms of reduced labor costs and efficiencies that come with centralized operations.

The main city corporation yard is just south of downtown and the railroad tracks and east of South Main Street in the Manteca Industrial Park.

The first visible element will be the new animal shelter that is going up on the northeast corner of South Main Street and Wetmore Street in a former gypsum board yard that the city purchased. The council gave the go ahead to start work on construction of the $2.1 million animal shelter that is targeted for a late summer 2011 completion. They also approved starting design work on the $4.7 million phase two that will include a new vehicle maintenance building on the southeast corner of Wetmore and South Main where a Park-n-Sell car lot is now located. The escrow deal gives the car lot until January to move out.

“(The existing vehicle maintenance building) is truly from the days of horse and buggies,” noted Councilman Vince Hernandez.

The city acquired the building from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District that had used it before World War II as a maintenance building. Prior to that, the metal building is believed by city officials to have been used as a horse barn.

Mayor Willie Weatherford noted the existing building provides less-than-favorable conditions to work on vehicles because of  extreme cold in the winter that  due to the need to keep part of the building open to work on garage trucks that are too big to fit into the structure sometimes will draw fog inside.

Council member Debby Moorhead received assurance that all dogs at the new animal shelter will be housed inside the building. The only time they will be in an open area visible from South Main Street is when volunteers exercise them in an enclosed area.

Councilman John Harris’ inquiry about what will happen to existing small parcels that have served as corporation yards on Oak Street and the old Center Street fire station prompted a response from staff that they will be sold. They have been appraised at just under $1 million. The receipts will help defray the cost of the overall $12.1 million project.

Phase three includes a central administration and water division shop costing $3.1 million. The final phase encompasses building maintenance, parks, streets shops, and storage.

No general fund money will be used for the project. Of the $12.1 million, $10,850,000 will come from government building facilities fees collected on new growth as well as $490,000 in public facility fees paid by developers. The water division will pay $434,000, solid waste $213,000, and sewer $13,000 for the portion of the improvements helping those enterprise operations.

The city has $4,750,000 on hand including $3.5 million in government facilities fees and the receipts from the enterprise accounts. That is enough to cover the animal shelter and about half of the second phase.

The rest will come from Manteca borrowing from restricted accounts and paying itself back with interest. Included is a $2,010,000 loan from public facilities fee account consisting of money that can’t be contributed to the corporation yard project and $5,340,000 in a redevelopment agency loan.

The money will be paid back with the $750,000 to $1 million in annual growth fees currently pouring into city coffers in the form of the government facilities fee based on new construction of three past three years.

It will take five to seven years to repay the loans at the current construction pace. Increased construction will accelerate payback.

Finance Director Suzanne Mallory said it now makes sense for Manteca to borrow money from its restricted accounts internally as municipal investments of restricted funds are getting extremely low returns.

Mallory added the city will monitor government facilities fee flow as phased work continues. That means the city may actually borrow less as the city may have the amount on hand when it is needed.