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Lathrop Manteca Fire seeks deal in coverage dispute
lathrop fire

All that Gene Neely wants when it comes to the disputed property along Lathrop’s new northern border is for the city to remain whole.

And the Lathrop Manteca Fire District Chief says that he’s willing to negotiate with the French Camp McKinley Fire District to make that possible.

With a presentation to the district’s Board of Director’s coming in a matter of weeks, Neely said that he remains open to the prospect of reaching an agreement with his neighboring agency that can satisfy all parties without forcing the matter back to the Local Agency Formation Commission for possible consolidation.

“All along that has been the goal here – to keep the City of Lathrop whole,” Neely said of the dispute over the Flying J Truck Stop on Roth Road that was annexed into Lathrop’s city limits but remains serviced by French Camp McKinley. “I’m going to present some options to the board and we’re going to have to discuss the best way to move forward on this.”

According to Neely, he’s open to the idea of allowing French Camp McKinley to keep the property and override taxes for the parcel in dispute as long as his district is able to provide service. The unique situation marks the first time since Lathrop incorporated as a city in 1989 that the district did not provide fire service to everything within the city’s boundaries.

But what was a complicated situation became even more complicated with it was announced that French Camp McKinley Fire Chief Fred Manding would be out indefinitely on a workman’s compensation related issue. Former Stockton Fire Official Mario McArn, who retired after 27 years with the City of Stockton, has since been hired as French Camp McKinley’s Interim Chief, and Neely said that he has reached out to continue the discussions that have been ongoing.

While the nuclear option in the back-and-forth would be to push for a consolidation – blending the two districts together with a unified command – Neely said that he’s open to negotiate other scenarios that could include a mutual aid agreement that could be beneficial to both agencies.

The French Camp McKinley Fire District is responsible for providing service to the area just north of Lathrop and South of the City of Stockton – a swath of land that includes some of San Joaquin County’s most important infrastructure including the San Joaquin County Jail, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, the San Joaquin County Juvenile Justice Facility and San Joaquin General Hospital.

Currently it is French Camp that gets both the property tax and override tax for the Flying J Truck Stop and other properties that prior to the annexation were under their control, but the Measure C sales tax funding that goes to benefit the Lathrop Manteca Fire District remains untouched under the current agreement.

The Lathrop Manteca Fire District Board of Directors typically meets on the third Thursday of every month at Lathrop City Hall – located at 390 Towne Centre Drive – at 7 p.m. Their next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.