Manteca’s Senior Center is showing its age.
The roof leaks, dripping water on the coffee maker when it rains.
The kitchen refrigerator is on the fritz.
The heating system is so undependable that some seniors have resorted to bringing their own space heaters from home in an attempt to stay warm.
Tom Stewart, who serves on the Manteca Senior Center Advisory Committee, shared with the council Tuesday that the 31-year-old building at 295 Cherry Lane that is heavily used by seniors as well as for community events is in need of maintenance even though $450,200 worth of work is now underway.
The Manteca City Council agreed and committed $232,424 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds the city can only spend on programs either benefiting low to moderate income residents or on projects in a census tract where the majority of residents are low to moderate income. They also promised to try and budget city money to addressing the problems. Staff believes it will take at least $400,000 to address issues Stewart mentioned as well as worn flooring and partitions. The current work involves remodeling bathrooms, upgrading the lobby and offices and making all doors compliant with current American with Disabilities Act standards.
Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu — reflecting the sentiment of the council — said it is important the city addresses the maintenance as soon as possible. Cantu said if the city doesn’t, the cost to fix things will only increase.
In discussing how best to spend the $383,316 allocation, it was clear there are a lot of pressing needs in Manteca and not enough money.
Councilman Gary Singh, while strongly supporting the need to invest in the senior center, said the city needs to address other community concerns as well including two other potential CDBG projects — expanding the “decorative” street lighting downtown and placing street lights in areas that lack coverage in neighborhoods that qualify for the federal funds.
Singh noted the street lighting for downtown has been mischaracterized as simply being “decorative.”
“There are dark areas where a lot of people walk especially near Manteca High,” Singh said. “It’s a safety issue.”
Both Singh and Councilwoman Debby Moorhead — who have pushed for more lighting on heavily used downtown streets — noted constituents have expressed concern about safety at night in those areas for a number of years.
The lighting that reflects the Tidewater motif is spaced more frequently than traditional street lighting and has a sidewalk light as well as one for the street on every other pole.
And while the council has indicated they want the city to invest in upgrading downtown both Singh and Moorhead say they are driven primarily by safety concerns.
To that end, Singh argued taking $100,000 in CDBG funds that had been recommended for a downtown façade improvement program and putting it toward the “decorative” street lights would be a better use of that money for improving the central district. The council concurred.
Council also made it clear that they wanted the upcoming budget that will cover the fiscal year that starts July 1 to include additional funding for the downtown street lights.
Staff had placed a $285,000 price tag on installing the upgraded street lighting on East Yosemite between Lincoln and Fremont avenues, West Yosemite between South Willow and Sequoia avenues, and North Main Street between Center and North streets.
Cantu added that he’d like to see the upgraded lighting in the 100 block of South Manteca from Moffat where the Transit Center has similar lighting and Yosemite Avenue.
Singh said it was important to include funding for downtown and perform the improvements in a timely manner to get the city moving toward upgrading the overall area.
No funding was included for “missing” street lights in neighborhoods that qualify for CDBG funds. City staff pegged the needs at $400,000.
The council also approved $20,000 for the Parks and Recreation scholarship program to allow low-income kids to participate in the city’s fee-based programs, $8,874 to the San Joaquin Fair Housing to serve as the federally required ombudsmen style agency for people who feel they are being discriminated against while trying to rent in Manteca, $4,000 for the San Joaquin County mobile farmers’ market serving city residents, $10,000 for Give Every Child a Chance’s free tutoring and mentoring program, and $8,000 for the Meals in Wheels program serving low income Manteca seniors that are also shut-ins.
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