It was dire times for the Lathrop Manteca Fire District when the county reassessed property values following the collapse of the housing market.
Overnight the property tax base that funded the staffing of the district’s four fire stations was hit significantly. An appeal to voters for a parcel tax that would have eased some of the bleeding and prevented permanent layoffs of firefighters failed at the ballot box.
But all of that changed when the City of Lathrop’s Measure C was passed.
Fire Chief Gene Neely was eventually able to replace the positions he had to cut for budgetary reasons with a grant that funded nine positions for a period of three years. He abandoned plans to brown out one of the two rural stations because of funding issues. When nearly 80 percent of Lathrop’s voters approved a one-cent sales tax increase in 2012, the nine positions were able to become permanent.
The proceeds generated by the sales tax initiative – of which the district gets 40 percent – has been paying off ever since.
According to Battalion Chief Larry Madoski, a new rescue unit that will carry all of the tools and materials necessary for specialized responses like hazardous materials and advanced vehicle extrication will be delivered shortly – compliments of local taxpayers.
And when it comes to specialized responses, Lathrop is in a very unique position despite serving a community that’s not nearly as populous as its neighboring entities.
While the City of Lathrop is the chief densely populated area that the agency is responsible for, there are a number of natural and industrial landmarks within its jurisdiction that require special attention and training to prepare for any emergency that may arise. Lathrop has Simplot – a chemical manufacturing facility – who just recently donated $16,000 to outfit the department with new hazmat suits and confined space communications equipment that will be stored on the new rig.
Both California Natural Products and Swiss American Sausage are also on the industrial list, as are the massive distribution warehouses located on the southern edge of the community.
And when you factor in the San Joaquin River – for which firefighters are trained in swift water rescue and recovery – and the Union Pacific intermodal yard that sits right in the heart of the community, the relatively small department has to be ready for any and all of the emergencies that could originate from any of those locations.
“I don’t see how else we’d be able to do it,” Madoski said of the training and equipment purchases that Measure C now affords. “There are a lot of different contingency plans that have to be in place and we have a small administrative staff to handle all of that. It makes a big difference when you’re able to add something like that to the equation.