When it comes to public safety, don’t assume Charlie Halford as a retired police chief with 32 years in law enforcement will simply queue up the usual “we need more police officers and firefighters” line.
The councilman-elect who takes office in a week doesn’t dispute the fact Manteca needs to get its police staffing up to make up for shortfalls and to accommodate growth.
What he will tell you is contrary to all the rhetoric and posturing over the years among elected officials and city management alike, that police services have never really been as big of a priority as claimed.
As “Exhibit A” he offers up the cramped, security nightmare built in the 1970s when Manteca had fewer residents than Ripon does today that serves as the city’s police station.
The police station exposes officers who have to use a breezeway to go from one part of the station to another past a fairly easy-to-scale wrought-iron fence.
The lobby is cramped and not nearly as secure as other police stations including Ripon.
“The city needs to build a new police station first before (expanding) city hall,” Halford said.
That is contrary to the course of action the city is headed toward which is to expand city hall and simply remodel the police station.
Halford said the city could build a new police station on the civic center campus where the secured police parking is now located.
Police station was high council
priority in 2002 but 18 years
later nothing has happened
Halford’s assertion that the police have never been as high a priority as some at city hall have contended over the years actually ties into the homeless issue.
Back in 2002 when Manteca had 30,000 less residents, the city made securing a new police station a “top priority” with “make it happen” orders to city management.
That is what led the city, through its redevelopment agency, in 2006 to buy the 57,000-square-foot Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive for $2.6 million to remodel into a new police station.
After spending another $1 million plus to bring it up to earthquake standards, the city abandoned the plan.
Now — 14 years later — the City Council on Dec. 15 with the first meeting Halford will cast votes as a council member is expected to relook at the wisdom of buying the Qualex building for a second time for $1.2 million or so and spending millions into making the structure suitable and functional for a homeless center of some sort.
“Great location, horrible building,” Halford said Monday of the Qualex site.
Halford: Qualex right site,
wrong approach for homeless
The likelihood it may cost millions more beyond the purchase price to make Qualex inhabitable and functional and take at least several years to do so, prompts Halford to look at the site a bit differently.
While he believes the city needs to revisit all options, Halford contends the city may have the right site but is going at it in the wrong way.
Halford believes the more effective way would be to purchase the site, pour the foundation for a Sprung Structure or similar building and at some point in the future demolish the Qualex building. That way the city — within six months of buying the property based on what is known about Sprung Structures — could easily have a homeless center up and running. Converting the Qualex building would cost millions more and could easily push the start of a solution out another two years.
Halford notes the city has to do something to address the homeless “but it is not going to be easy.”
The former police chief pointed to court decisions that require overnight beds to be available for homeless to use before municipalities can effectively enforce a long list of quality of life laws involving the homeless that they are being pressured by residents to pursue. At the same time a resource center is needed to step up efforts to get the homeless off the streets.
Public safety is more
than just police & fire
Halford also does not define public safety narrowly as simply police and firefighters.
He notes well-maintained streets that enhance driving safety as well as robust parks and recreation programs that offer healthy diversions for youth and young adults also fall under the public safety umbrella.
By that Halford makes it clear the city can ill-afford to gut other general fund services in a bid to shore up the police and fire departments.
A clue into how Charlie Halford will approach serving as the newest member of the Manteca City Council comes from how he looks at numbers.
Manteca, he notes, spends $550 per capita on basic municipal services such as police, fire, park upkeep, street maintenance and general government functions. That compares to nearly $850 for Tracy and Lodi.
“That $300 is a heck of a gap” Halford said.
At the same time he sees pitfalls down the road of key funding sources such as the gas tax that has provided much of the money the city is able to secure to do what road work they can.
“(The state) really needs to look at as system that uses (GPS) to have people pay for miles driven,” Halford said.
While more fuel efficient vehicles as well as economic shifts such as less commuting due to the pandemic are reducing tax receipts, the governor’s decree to ban the sale of new vehicles fueled by fossil fuels by 2035 will virtually eliminate gas tax revenues.
While that is clearly a state issue, how quickly the state moves to replace the gas tax with a funding mechanism for roads will undoubtedly start deteriorating the ability to keep roads maintained as 2035 draws closer.
Halford wants a situation
where people’s children can
afford to rent or buy in Manteca
Halford will also need to be ready on Dec. 15 to tackle a second issue as perplexing and persistent as the homeless in Manteca — affordable housing.
Mayor Ben Cantu is seeking council consensus for a moratorium on the processing of new tentative residential maps in a bid to give the city time to come up with workable affordable housing strategies.
Before voting on Cantu’s push for a moratorium on processing new tentative map Halford wants to have all pertinent information first such as the number of housing units already approved, where they are in the planning process, and if they have a specific shelf life before approvals expire.
“It should be for a finite and as short a time as needed,” Halford said of any moratorium the council might consider.
Halford believes the city should “blue sky” efforts to get affordable housing strategies in place that will work.
He noted the trend for years has seen more and more multi-generational families and even people unrelated or in relationships buying homes together. At the same time it is normal for “single family homes” to have other people or families renting rooms.
“We’ve primarily have been building homes on lots of 6,000 square feet and larger,” Halford said. “We need a stronger mixture of more housing types.”
The goal is to make it so “our children” can afford to either rent or live in Manteca.
He pointed to an example of a neighbor who had a 30-year-old daughter with a 7-year-old son working full-time at a job with benefits that was living with her because she could not afford to rent in Manteca. Finally the daughter took a job to another state so she could afford to rent her own living space.
Halford, who was raised in a rural area north of Lathrop where he started working summers on an egg farm for $1.25 an hour after completing eighth grade and continued to do so until completing college, is not alarmed by growth.
However, he believes those who have moved here for a lower cost of living should not expect the same amenities communities had in the Bay Area.
“Manteca needs to be able to control its own destiny,” Halford said in referencing the ability of Stockton to grow south in the next 20 to 50 years.
He believes the city should adopt more precise alignments for future arterials instead of simply putting lines on a map.
At the same time, if there are ways to steer growth effectively by far-sighted planning and reduce infrastructure costs and future maintenance costs, Halford would like to see such options explored.
One possibility is developing the area to the north that will eventually come into the city limits to use the two existing upgraded interchanges at French Camp Road and Lathrop Road instead of incurring another $50 million plus interchange by extending Roth Road to Highway 99.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org