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To run or not to run? The $970 question
Manteca Police charge puts Pumpkin Run in jeopardy
Cynthia Barajas was a Participant in last years Pumpkin Run. - photo by HIME ROMERO

A $970 fee that the City of Manteca is requiring Manteca Unified Student Trust (MUST) to pay has placed the non-profit organization’s ninth annual Faustina Rosas Memorial Pumpkin Run on Oct. 4 in jeopardy.

Efforts by various city individuals are continuing today to see if the 1K and 5K runs that have traditionally kicked off the Pumpkin Fair for nearly a decade could be saved at the last minute. One possibility is an alternate route starting at the Manteca Transit Center on Moffat Avenue which would not require a fee. The other solution being considered, but still needs to be hammered out, is a special city council meeting that would give MUST a chance to obtain a fee waiver. Only the council by a unanimous or majority vote can grant a waiver request. The next council meeting is on Oct. 7, which would be too late for the scheduled pumpkin run.

Mayor Willie Weatherford and Mayor Pro-Tempore Steve DeBrum both said they were not aware about the Pumpkin Run cancellation when reached on the phone Thursday afternoon. Both are working on a solution to save MUST’s Faustina Rosas Memorial Run, a perennial Pumpkin Fair event staple in the last eight years.

MUST executive director Wendy King, who said she was informed about the fee only Wednesday night more than a week after she had filed the Pumpkin Run papers at City Hall, said she could not accept right away the alternate route that was being offered by Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion Thursday afternoon because “there are things that need to be done on my end,” including contacting the members of the MUST board who hold the authority to make that determination.

“I am contacting them right now,” she said as she was being interviewed on the phone late Thursday evening.

She also would need to call or email the runners, who have already submitted their registration papers with their fees paid, and inform them about the possible change of venue in the event the MUST board decides to accept the alternate route, she added.

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Fee is to pay for police officers to patrol 5K route

King informed the Manteca Bulletin via email on Thursday that the run was cancelled because they don’t have the money to cover the fee requirement. In the Sept. 18 email sent at 1:02 p.m., King explained that the memorial run “has been cancelled due to logistics beyond our control.”

She said she was told that the money would be used to “pay for the police officers that patrol the two streets” that the 5K runners would cross – Alameda Street and Louise Avenue.  The bike path route, which was the same every year, begins at Walnut Avenue where registrations are held prior to the run, and then proceeds north to Alameda and on to Louise Avenue.

The police chief explained that his department has to provide traffic control because of the runners being placed in jeopardy when they cross Alameda Street and Louise Avenue.

“I will incur overtime to monitor those intersections. This (MUST) is a private organization. I can’t just give city funds,” he said, adding, it would be hard for him to shut down Louise Avenue for three hours.

The situation is similar to providing police escorts at funeral processions. Police officers who would like to work outside of their normal hours would incur overtime pay but that would be paid by the private organizations requiring those services, Obligacion explained.

He added that he cannot use Police Explorers and SHARP (Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police) volunteers “because of the speed of the traffic” at Alameda and Louise, which by law would require law enforcement officers to do that particular job.

Exacerbating that concern is the fact there is construction currently going on at Louise Avenue with the roadway all torn up, the police chief said. “I’m not in a position to give city funds. The only one that can waive fees is the city council, not me. If I have to have people come in on overtime, they have to be charged overtime; the city council has to waive that.”

With the alternate route that he suggested – with the run starting at the Manteca Transit Center at Moffat Avenue by the railroad tracks on South Main Street, and then proceeding along the bike path toward Spreckels Avenue up to the turning point – there would be no fee required for MUST to pay because the runners would “only cross one roadway instead of multiple roadways.” That can be done at no expense “because there’s not a four-lane high-speed roadway that they are crossing.

“I can cover that with volunteers,” Obligacion said.

The student fund-raiser, which attracts several hundred runners each year and has become an integral part of the popular Pumpkin Fair weekend event that has put the Family City on the map for more than three decades, has never been required to pay the fee since this run started as the MUST Pumpkin Run so it came as a complete surprise when she was informed about it, King said.

“I never knew there was such a fee. I was never charged, and it has never been discussed before. I submitted the application last week. I’ve always known you have to put in an application and attach your certificate of insurance. I never thought there was a fee on top of the liability insurance which, I did put that in,” she said.

King is hoping that there is no negative fallout from this incident and that “hopefully, we can work something out. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance.”

The possible cancellation of the Pumpkin Run is “something that’s unfortunate,” DeBrum said, but “hopefully we can work this out and make this happen because (the Pumpkin Run) has been an (integral) part of the event for years now. Hopefully we can put this thing to bed and make it happen.”