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Lathrop ups growth fee for fire facilities

It’ll cost the Lathrop Manteca Fire District $37 million to build the facilities necessary to maintain current levels of service to Lathrop residence once the development in the pipeline is fully built out. 

And on Monday the Lathrop City Council gave the district a revenue source capable of raising the money necessary to build three additional fire stations and a training facility by raising the fire facilities fees for the first time since 2001. 

The increase, from $0.31 per square foot to $0.53 per square foot that is charged to new development that stresses resources for the district, came as a result of a study commissioned by the board to examine ways to meet its future growth obligations throughout the city. 

According to Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely, the cost of construction alone in the last 18 months spurred the decision to commission the study after the board watched the cost of Fire Station 35 in River Islands balloon from $5.2 million to $7.4 million because of increased costs of materials and labor. 

“When concrete becomes more expensive and there are a lot of fires that destroy homes that puts laborers in short supply, it drives the price up across the entire industry,” Neely said. “We needed to make sure that we were able to meet our obligations and continue to do so as the city grows.

“This is just to pay for facilities – not personnel – and we’re going to need additional facilities in the near future.”

While there are plans for an additional fire station in River Islands once enough houses are built, the district is focusing now on designing and constructing Fire Station 36 near McKinley and Yosemite Avenues – putting personnel in place to serve the millions of square feet of warehouse and light industrial that is going in near the Highway 120 Bypass and its intersection with I-5. 

According to Neely, because of the size of the buildings and the nature of the development that is taking place the district is also looking at adding a “tiller” truck – which swivels and is driven by an engineer in the front and the back – to allow it to better navigate tight residential streets and spaces. The district is also looking at possibly moving the “quint” truck from the J Street Fire Station to the new fire station so that a 100-foot ladder is available to reach over and into some of the massive buildings that are being constructed in the vicinity. 

Whether the coverage area of the next fire station will overlap or force a realignment of territory with the existing rural fire station on South Union Road remains to be seen and is something that Neely said the district will have to look at as the time nears. If construction continues the way that it is currently going, Neely said, they could break ground on the new station as early as two years from now. It would be unlikely that the process does not begin within the next five years. 

With the unanimous blessing of the council, the district will be able to put the fire facilities fee increase into place and begin putting the money into a fund that can be used to build future fire stations once the need arises. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.