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Mayor sees police on Industrial
Weatherford believes Qualex still best option
The Manteca Redevelopment Agency bought the Qualex building in 2006 for $3.6 million with the intent to use it as a police station. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It has 57,000 square feet, more than three times the size of the current Manteca Police station.

It is centrally located with quick access to the 120 Bypass and neighborhoods along the two major freeways that bisect the city.

It even has the potential for a large enough city jail where those convicted of crimes such as drunken driving and copper theft could do real time instead of being sent to the catch and release facility in French Camp.

The quick snapshot is of the former Qualex photo processing building on 8.07 acres that the redevelopment agency bought back in 2006 for $3.6 million. The idea was to covert it within two years to a police station. But then the state required 24-7 staffing for city jails in any new police station that was put into service. Then the recession hit. The Qualex building and parking lot are currently being used for training and storage.

Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford believes it is still a solid site for a police station to handle the city’s needs for the next 20 to 30 years. While he doesn’t see it happening in the next several years, he believes the city should start moving toward turning the Qualex building into a police station. That in turn would open the current 17,000 square feet devoted to police services at The Civic Center to other municipal uses.

Besides money that would come in part from growth fees to do the conversion work, there is one slight problem.

The redevelopment agency ceased to exist a year ago. as part of a long-range plan to balance the state budget

That means the fate of the $3.6 million purchase is ultimately in the hands of an oversight committee set to oversee the management and disposal of the RDA assets. It would also require authorization of the state Department of Finance.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin said the oversight committee could decide to turn it over to the city if and when it was ready to proceed turning the Qualex building into a police station. They could decide to sell it to the city at market value since the various agencies sitting on the oversight committee would be able to divvy up the proceeds. Or they could opt to see it before the city is ready to make a pitch to proceed with a police station.

The mayor likes the site because for about $5 million it can be turned into a functional police station. That compares with easily four to five times that amount to buy land and building a similar sized replacement police headquarters.

Industrial Park Drive is on a major Manteca street. It is also within a quarter of a mile of the freeway without having to cross railroad tracks. Given that there are now six Manteca freeway interchanges with a seventh coming, the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 are going to become more and more critical to quick movement of police in emergencies as the city grows.

The Qualex building in 2006 seemed like a natural fit. It was three times larger than the existing complex, it could accommodate an indoor range, and it was centrally located - a big plus for police being able to respond to emergencies. It was determined with earthquake retrofits the project could be done in two phases.

But after the deal closed escrow, the state changed the rules of the game.

The state decreed that all new police facilities needed to have jails - or holding cells - manned 24/7 by police officers or correctional officers.

The requirement would add a cost the city wasn’t incurring with the existing facility. The cost - to cover all shifts - was estimated to be in excess of $500,000 a year. It was an additional cost the council at the time decided the general fund couldn’t afford.

But looking into the future, the major said that if the city gets in a position to be able to afford 24-7 jail staff they could avoid the possibility of having to pay high booking fees at the county jail with the bonus of being able to see some who are convicted of some crimes and now simply released because of space problems at the county jail end up doing jail time.