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Possible site for library?
Qualex building may get consideration as library
The current library opened in 1962. - photo by HIME ROMERO

There’s an outside chance in the coming several years the City of Manteca may give serious consideration to converting the former Qualex film processing plant on Industrial Park Drive into a new library.

That’s because the city paid $3.6 million for the structure in 2008 using Manteca Redevelopment Agency funds with the intent of using it as new police headquarters. Since the state pulled the plug on RDA earlier this year, the RDA asset must either be used by the city or purchased by another government agency or sold. The proceeds under state law would be split between the various taxing agencies that cover Manteca ranging from the school district, county, and city to the mosquito abatement district.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin stressed that staff isn’t advocating it as the best location but that when the time comes to comply with state law regarding “surplus” RDA property the city would be prudent to at least consider it since they already have essentially the shell of  the building and a parking lot.

“The location isn’t downtown,” McLaughlin said noting that downtown has been the City Council’s stated preference for a new library.

It is centrally located, though. It was why it was picked as a potential police station in the first place plus its close proximity to what had been proposed as a South County courthouse complex on nearby land on South Main Street. The county has since dropped that plan.

Also throwing a wrench in the city’s plan was a state law change that occurred after they bought the building. Originally the city had penciled out the purchase and renovation of the existing building as being less expensive that buying land and starting from scratch. But then the state put in place a mandate that all new police facilities that had holding cells must have 24/7 jail staffing. That would have spiked the annual operating budget of the police department by $600,000.

Back in 2002, a Library Task Force working with a consultant devised a rough plan for a two-story 55,000-square-foot library on the site of the existing library on Center Street. It tripled the existing library space. The Qualex building has 57,000 square feet.

The Qualex building would require interior remodeling although most of the space most likely would simply require a false ceiling with overhead duct work.

Manteca twice applied for state library bond money and twice just barely missed the cut that used a rating system to compare projects based on location, and other factors. McLaughlin noted with the loss of the RDA, the funding options are limited although the city does include funding for a library as part of the government facilities fee they collect from new growth when building permits are issued.

McLaughlin said the library “is still on Manteca’s list” but since there is no available funding at the moment there is no active effort to devise plans or explore sites.

McLaughlin noted to do either would require spending staff time and city funds of which both are at a premium due to budget cutbacks.

Remodeling existing buildings as new libraries isn’t unusual. Ripon did just that with an old hardware store to significantly increase the size of their public library.