Manteca Unified as a public agency wants to exercise its right to buy surplus redevelopment agency property at 555 Industrial Park Drive for use as a central warehouse.
It is a move that will ultimately save local taxpayers millions of dollars.
That’s because they are paying $300,000 a year to lease 20,000 plus square feet of business park space for use as a warehouse for nutritional services.
The district — since it will use the Qualex building as a warehouse and not to house people — can buy the property at market value and make improvements for under $3.5 million.
Not only is that half the cost of building a steel structure at the district office complex, but the Qualex warehouse will have at least 30,000 square feet of more space allowing the district to handle growth.
But there is a hitch. Manteca city officials aren’t moving forward with the district to sell them the property where they have a tent erected in the parking lot as an emergency homeless shelter.
The district — based on documents they forwarded the city — made it clear they wanted to buy the Qualex site two years ago. The city — which is now on its fourth city manager, permanent or otherwise — doesn’t see it that way.
They also contend the district isn’t negotiating with them although the law makes it clear as a government agency the district can simply buy the surplus property at the appraised fair market value.
Interim City manager Toni Lundgren on Thursday indicated that in a bid to end the Qualex quagmire that she is going to propose the two agencies seek a third party to mediate their differences.
From virtually the first day Manteca — operating through the now defunct Manteca Redevelopment Agency — bought the former Qualex building for $3,698 million in 2006 everything that could go wrong has.
It was bought initially as a way for a skinflint city leadership to save money by constructing a new building to house the Manteca Police Department.
Remodeling the 55,000-square-foot structure was supposed to help shave $4 million off the cost of providing the department with a new facility to replace the one they are still using that was described by city leaders back in 2002 as being woefully inadequate and a safety concern for officers and support staff.
They even envisioned an indoor shooting range.
They started to do minor repairs to the roof and such as plans were drawn up for refurnishing the structure.
Then the state upped the seismic standards for public safety facilities.
Shortly after that the state required new police stations with holding facilities to have 24/7 officers serving as jailers effectively adding more than $600,000 to the department’s operating costs.
The city pulled the plug on the police station project.
Ironically it was the second time in less than two years where the buying of an existing building to remodel into a public safety hoping to save money fell apart.
The city had used RDA funds to buy a medical office complex owned by Doctors Hospital on Union Road just north of Louise Avenue for use as a fire station.
But after they started digging in deeper to requirements after they bought the building for nearly $900,000 it was determined it would not work.
In that case the city was able to retrieve what it spent by selling the structure to Manteca CAPS that is now known as Valley CAPS.
A fire station was eventually built on Lathrop Road west of Union Road.
No police station, however, has never been built.
Then in 2010 to avoid having to reduce state general fund spending during the recession, Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the plug on redevelopment agencies up and down the state. The order carried the mandate that all property that wasn’t encumbered with an active project moving forward had to be sold by the RDAs and the proceeds split between local agencies proportionate to the tax rate.
It took Manteca until 2016 to develop a state required plan on how to dispose of surplus RDA property of which the city had four in possession that they used property tax funds diverted from the school district, other agencies as well as their own general fund to purchase.
State law then — and state law now — requires other government agencies to have first right of refusal to purchase such surplus property before it is put up for auction.
The city, despite saying they’d do so no less than three times, did not auction off the properties.
When they finally did in 2019, Qualex was off the table because the city was thinking about buying it a second time using local property taxes because they wanted to use it as a homeless shelter.
The city erected a tent in the parking lot in the interim to help house the homeless on an emergency basis.
But when the cost of covert the structure into a facility actually house people was determined, it carried up to a $12 million price tag on top of the cost of buying the property.
By this time due to building issues, the Qualex property value based on an at-market appraisal had dropped to roughly a third of the original purchase price.
The city dropped that plan and turned its sights on the South Main Street property that had gone to auction but then the accepted offer feel through due to financing issues. The city is now working to secure that 8-acre site for a homeless navigation center without having to pay for it again. The RDA using local property taxes paid $2.6 million for it in 2004.
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