Buying the 57,000-square-foot building that once housed Kodak’s Qualex film processing division on Industrial Park Drive to serve as a new home for the Manteca Police Department was anything but a snap decision by the City of Manteca in 2006.
Two years earlier Manteca spent $2.6 million in redevelopment agency money to buy 8.07 acres fronting South Main Street in the Manteca Industrial Park between Wetmore Street and Industrial Park Drive for a future South County courthouse. A San Joaquin Superior Court judges’ committee had recommended the county apply for state bond money to construct a courthouse facility to serve the rapidly growing South County. The Board of Supervisors thought it would make sense to add satellite offices for the district attorney and public defenders staff to make it a complete complex.
When Manteca secured the South Main Street site, the county indicated it would site the South County satellite judicial complex on Manteca and not in Tracy.
That prompted the city — which was pondering new police headquarters to consolidate all police operations into one building and allow for expansion instead of the two parallel office wings and assorted portables at the Civic Center complex — to look at the Qualex building that was adjacent to the South Main Street parcel.
The department could easily double its space and possibly even have an indoor shooting range. It was also more centrality located based on future growth patterns that would put 60 percent of the city’s pupation south of the 120 Bypass by 2040. Engineers penciled out the cost of buying and building on vacant land a facility of equal size and remodeling the Qualex building. The cost savings to go with the Qualex building as the new police headquarters was $2 million. So 10 years ago the city spent $3.6 million to buy the old Qualex building to house the police department.
Within a year of closing escrow, the plan started unraveling.
First a new presiding judge pushed to change the focus of the county’s application for the state bond money. The judicial committee opted for the new courthouse in Stockton that is under construction.
Then the state changed its standards for police stations requiring any new facilities that opened that contained holding cells to have correctional officers on duty 24/7. It was estimated at the time it would add almost $700,000 to the annual operating costs of the police department.
It was a cost the city couldn’t avoid building either a new station or remodeling the Qualex structure. Given that, the Qualex remodel was still less expensive.
But then another state standard was issued. This time it was enough to kill the Qualex conversion project. The state was requiring all future police stations to withstand even more rigorous earthquake standards. The cost of retrofitting the Qualex building almost overnight significantly exceeded the cost of new construction.
Now Manteca taxpayers could lose $2.7 million by a state forced sale of the two properties expected to take place by auction later this year. The expected loss in value is cushioned somewhat by $330,000 in lease payments the city collected from American Modular over a five-year period that ended in 2011.
When the California Legislature seized redevelopment agency assets and disbanded the economic stimulus mechanism up and down the state in order to cover perennial state budget deficits, any property still owned by an RDA that didn’t meet certain criteria for transferring the parcels to municipal ownership was ordered sold. A pro-rata share of the proceeds would go back to the Successor Agency formed under state law for economic development. The rest would go to other taxing agencies.
The actual loss will be reduced somewhat because of a third parcel that is included in the sale
The RDA also bought 3.1 acres on the northwest corner of Airport Way and Daniels Street zoned general commercial for $534,743. The intent was to resell it to a private developer for retail uses. It is now valued at $1,239,630. It was bought along with other properties in the area across from the Stadium Retail Center and Big League Dreams.
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