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Police & fire plans on hold
Budget crisis puts freeze on remodeling plans
The City of Manteca has put remodeling this building on Union Road north of Louise Avenue as a fire stationon hold while it reassesses its fiscal situation. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca’s pending $8 billion budget deficit is forcing city leaders to rethink several projects including remodeling two existing buildings purchased to provide new headquarters for the police and the fire departments.

The call for bids and construction of both projects are on hold pending a comprehensive review of the city’s budget and fiscal future.

The city purchased the 57,000-square-foot former Qualex film processing center at 555 Industrial Park Drive for the new police headquarters. The existing police facility has 17,000 square feet.

Kodak closed the Manteca film processing center several years ago due to the growing dominance of digital cameras.

The Qualex location has ample space to accommodate department growth for the next 20 to 25 years by some estimates. It also has adequate space to create an indoor shooting range.

Moving the police department also frees up the existing police facilities at the Civic Center for other uses effectively delaying a need for expensive municipal office expansions.

The new location also would give police to the city more centralized access especially since the Industrial Park Drive extension to Spreckels Avenue has been opened.

The city bought the former Carpenters’ Union Hall for Local 25 for use as a fire station and new fire headquarters. It is a 5,100-square-foot building at 1180 N. Union Road just north of Louise Avenue and the Valero gas station will become a Manteca fire station. The city paid $1,175,000 — $500,000 under the asking price.

An architectural study conducted at city expense has determined the building is structurally sound to withstand a major earthquake. RRM Design Group has indicated the probable construction cost to convert the building into a station is $2,570,000.

That compares to the $3,801,000 price tag for building a new fire station. Once you add in the purchase price the cost of the Union Road station would be $3,745,000. The savings is actually more than just $100,000 as an acre could easily cost $1 million.

But what drove the deal was the efficiency as well as improved fire protection for 2,500 homes in the Chadwick Square/Primavera/Villa Ticino neighborhoods in northwest Manteca plus parts of Del Webb at Woodbridge.

It brings those 2,000 homes with in a targeted five-minute response time.

The five-minute response time is a mantra for those who make a living putting out fires and responding to heart attacks.

Municipal leaders are also rethinking proceeding with the $1.5 million remodeling to put in place a one-stop building permit center at the Civic Center.

While the council made it a high priority, the elected leaders are sensitive to what it would look like spending $1.5 million on what is essentially remodeling City Hall facilities to improve customer service at the time they are asking employees to make sacrifices in a bid to balance the budget and help people keep their jobs.

The money for the $1.5 million project was earmarked from funds collected from growth restricted to building government facilities only as well as bonus bucks paid by developers for residential sewer certainty.

Community Development Director Mark Nelson is revisiting the one-permit center to see if it can be scaled down.
The city has already started exploring furloughs — forced days off for city workers without pay — could help Manteca bridge the looming $8 million deficit projected for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Other ideas being tossed about include closing offices during Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks during 2009 as well as closing offices every other Friday.

One way that furloughs could be a “wash” is for the hour cutbacks to match the cost of living increase negotiated in multi-year contracts signed by employee groups.