Lathrop is growing.
With the massive River Islands development set to more than double the city’s current population by the time it is built out completely, and other large-scale developments on the horizon, the sleepy city along Interstate 5 will be drastically transformed over the course of the next decade.
So, who’s going to protect all of those new homes and all of the new people who will call Lathrop home?
Don’t worry – the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District has a plan to accommodate the growth without interrupting the service levels that residents currently enjoy.
According to Fire Chief Gene Neely, the district is currently in the process of hiring nine additional firefighters through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant – known as SAFER – to staff a full-time rescue unit. It will an additional dimension of protection for the district that already faces multiple challenges because of its geography and its development makeup.
In addition to having an Interstate running right through its heart, the district also has a fertilizer plant, several large-scale industrial operators, massive light-industrial warehouses and a multi-modal transfer station. The rescue unit will allow first responders quick access to all of the tools necessary to handle those precarious situations that may arise, and do so much quicker.
With a position that was opened up last week with the firing of Brandon Burlingame, and another firefighter position that opened when somebody left for a different job, Lathrop-Manteca will be hiring 11 firefighters total.
And that’s not taking into account the additional personnel that will be needed to staff the new River Islands fire station that is currently being built.
Located off of Sommerston Parkway, the facility will be the largest in the district thanks to both an engine and a ladder company that will be housed there – as well as the district’s administrative offices, which are currently in a portable building alongside Station 31 on J Street in Lathrop.
Neely said that the ladder company addition is still likely five years out and will be dependent on whenever River Islands begins the business park portion of the massive development.
Station 31 currently houses Lathrop’s existing truck company – a recent addition that was added to allow for the appropriate coverage and response to the massive million-plus square-foot buildings that have been built and are being added. Having the apparatus will also help the district keep its Insurance Services Office rating – which impacts the insurance rates that residents pay for their homes – at the high level.
The last time that the district was rated it was right on the verge of Level 2, and the addition of the ladder company – let alone the second one that will be added – is expected to make the difference in classification the next time the district is rated.
Once growth takes off in River Islands, and other portions already slated for development begin to take hold – the Central Lathrop Specific Plan, for example, is expected to add thousands of homes around Lathrop High School – additional stations are expected to come online. Neely said that a second station is already planned for River Islands once it nears completion. The possibility exists for a fire station on the northern end of the city once the homes in Central Lathrop are constructed. Fire Station 34, located on River Islands Parkway, is expected to serve the bulk of the development north of Mossdale until the need for that fire station arises.
In addition to the SAFER grant, Neely said that Measure C has been a tremendous asset for the district as they prepare for growth in the community. It allows them to maintain staffing levels while they wait for tax revenue in some of the tax revenue that will come from new homes being constructed to roll in.
“We’ve done a financial analysis, and development does cover the cost of additional service, but there’s a gap there between when that money comes in and we’re able to utilize it,” Neely said. “For that reason, Measure C has been a great stopgap for us to maintain staffing levels – and in some cases, increase it – so that residents don’t see a drop in the service level.
“Development does pay for itself here, but Measure C allows us to keep things constant while that happens.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.