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Consolidation seen as option if fire district deal fails
LM fire

The Lathrop Manteca Fire District Board could make a decision as early as next month about how they wish to proceed with the disputed claim over the Flying J Truck Stop.

On Thursday the district’s governing board discussed the issue at length, and detailed the steps that are on the table when it comes to reaching an agreement with the French Camp McKinley Fire District over the development that was annexed into Lathrop’s city limits without detaching from the district that had historically serviced that area.

The result of the planning glitch, which could have been resolved by starting simultaneous proceedings with the Local Agency Formation Commission at the same time the annexation process was started, meant that for the first time since the City of Lathrop incorporated the Lathrop Manteca Fire District would not be solely responsible for providing fire service to everything within Lathrop’s city limits.

According to Fire Chief Gene Neely, who laid out the options that lie before the district to the board after he was pressed by Board Member Gloryanna Rhodes about the lead-up to the current situation, the district will likely repeat the initial offer that was provided to French Camp McKinley but wasn’t formally accepted. That offer would allow the district to retake that piece of property in exchange for a service agreement that would spell out how Lathrop-Manteca would provide additional assistance to French Camp McKinley. They would also give back additional revenue that comes as a result of having the property within their jurisdiction as a mitigation fee.

If that doesn’t go anywhere, Neely said, then consolidation would be another option that the board could explore. That process, which if approved would merge the two special districts together, would begin by filing an application with LAFCo that states the reasons why the consolidation should be considered and waiting for a response from their Board of Directors.

The third option, he said, would be to go back and detach completely from the parcel, which would mean that neither Lathrop Manteca nor French Camp McKinley would get any taxes from servicing it, and the override tax that is currently in place would go away.

All three of those options will be researched over the course of the next month and presented in detail to the board in August, Neely said. The issue is expected to be on the agenda, which would give the board the legal ability to potentially act once the matter has been discussed.

Complicating the already complicated issue further, however, is the fact that French Camp McKinley Fire Chief Fred Manding, who met with Neely as recently as last week to provide financial documents that Lathrop Manteca had requested, was not present at his district’s board meeting on Thursday night, and is reportedly out of work indefinitely for a workman’s comp-related issue. The board at French Camp McKinley made that announcement during open session. In his absence, the district’s three battalion chiefs will be stepping up to assume the day-to-day operations of the district.

It is unclear, at this point, how that development will affect the negotiations with Lathrop Manteca.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.