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Lathrop Library gets OK
Project includes new teen center
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LATHROP – A new Teen Center, a Lathrop Branch Library, an outdoor stage plus an art walk are within visual distance of Lathrop residents.

And if everything goes as planned, the city’s own 7,000-square-foot library and 3,500-square-foot Youth and Teen Center building complex with a multipurpose meeting room, computer lab and café could be open for business by spring of 2012.

Best of all, the $4 million needed to complete what has been dubbed as the East Lathrop Community Complex CIP Project is already budgeted with the money coming from the city’s Community Improvement Project funds. That’s money from developers and not from the pocket of local taxpayers.

The City Council Monday night gave the green light for City Manager Cary Keaten to execute a contract with LDA partner, LLP for the redesigning of the building complex to be constructed in the city-owned block facing Seventh Street between O and Thomsen streets in the Historic Downtown District. The project redesign was prompted by the council’s decision in May of 2009 to modify the scope of the project so they can add a new and larger public library at this site along with the youth center. The library is currently located on the ground floor of the two-story building on Seventh Street a block north of the Lathrop Post Office which the city is currently renting from the owners of this privately owned property. This library relocation would translate into rental savings for the city.

Like the Manteca Library, the Lathrop Library is a branch of the San Joaquin-Stockton Public Library system.

The city-owned block is currently home to the Lathrop Skate Park, the pre-incorporation Lathrop County Water District office which is now part of the corporation yard, a Head Start school facility, and a boarded up house west of the skate park which  was purchased by the city about three years ago.

At build-out, the building complex will comprise of 15,000 square feet. The youth center and librarywill be among the first ones to be completed in the first phase of the project.

Others whose funding will be part of the $4 million allocation include the following:

•The demolition of the corporation yard and building office, as well as the abandoned house at the opposite corner of the block;

•Improvements on portions of the adjacent streets;

•A portion of the parking lot;

•Majority of the concrete sidewalks;

•A storm water basin;

•A turf seating area; and,

•Majority of the park’s security lighting.

The rest of the master plan for this project that will be constructed at a later date include the second half of the 15,000-square-foot building complex, play equipment, the art walk, expansion of the skate park, outdoor stage and additional improvements such as street, parking, sidewalks and retention basins.

Head Start and Lathrop School Annex factors
During the council discussion, Councilman Robert Oliver suggested that the construction of the building complex be done at a later time when the Head Start’s contract with the city ends. Oliver said he has concerns about having the Head Start portable manufactured building at this three-acre property that is being developed into a city park.

“When we develop that block into a park, I think the Head Start modular there will be out of place. It has a fence around it to keep the children safe,” Oliver said.
“I think that modular is very much out of place; it’s a sore thumb. But we signed a contract to 2020, and until 2020 we can’t do anything about it,” he added.

The life of the contract inked by the city and the San Joaquin Head Start which runs the early-education program is from 2005 to 2020. When the agreement was approved, the city was in dire need of space so the agreement was made for the Head Start building to be used by the city during off-school hours for conferences and meetings. In exchange, Head Start would pay a token $1 a year rent to the city.

Head Start relocated to Manteca because its rented site on property owned by the University of the Pacific in Stockton was expiring and the campus needed the space.

In addition to sharing the Head Start facility, the contract provisions specified that after June 2020, the contract could be extended in five-year increments.

“So we’ll just have to develop around it and we’ll just have to live with it,” Oliver said of the Head Start’s presence in this community block park.

His suggestion to deny the park’s redesign and have it come back to the council at such a time when the contract with Head Start expires did not get support from the rest of the council, with Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo absent.

“This is something that has long been promised to the teens of our city. I’d like to see it in fruition. The benefits far outweigh the cost,” said Mayor Kristy Sayles.

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal asked the city manager what would happen to the $4 million already allocated for the project if the council denied the resolution that night.

Keaten replied, “The money is going to sit until it’s time to build (the project).”

Oliver said after the meeting that the discussion about the Head Start building was needed in the overall scheme of things. He did vote in favor of the resolution saying, “we’re spending money that’s already been collected.”

He also pointed out, “This is not tax money; it’s development money.”

And proceeding with the construction now would be good for the economy in that it will “put people to work who would otherwise  be not working,” plus the city would be getting the best bang for its buck because construction is “cheap” at this time. It would also result in hiring another person in the Parks and Recreation Department to maintain the new park, Oliver said.

Additionally, the new park “will be good for the spirit of the Old Town District,” he said.