By DENNIS WYATT
Manteca is switching to a “mobile” emergency operations center in light of a decision not to continue paying $75,000 a year in rent for a second floor space at 302 Cherry Lane that the city spent $450,000 on making improvements.
The city’s operations center — whether it is in a building or mobile — would be activated to deal with a PG&E induced emergency if and when the for-profit utility cuts power for 2 to 5 days under specific extremely dire conditions in areas up to 60 miles away to avoid incurring liability if a wildfire starts.
Karen McLaughlin was the city manager when the decision was made to move the emergency operation center from a portable building behind the Powers Avenue fire station to the two-story office building across the street from the Manteca Senior Center.
Since then the city has paid more than $300,000 in rent. City Manager Tim Ogden noted that is money essentially is going down the drain.
Ogden pointed out that:
uThe current emergency operations center is a second floor location and doesn’t meet standards because of that.
uThe center has never been activated although it has been used to conduct mock emergency scenarios.
uThe main use has been for classrooms for various city departments . Ogden noted there is ample available classroom space throughout the city including at the Lathrop Road fire station.
uA mobile operations center — such as in a van or RV or some other method — would give the city better flexibility. During the 1997 floods the command center set up at Nile Garden School had to be moved to the Powers Avenue station when concerns arose that additional levee breaks could flood the school site.
In May Ogden had approached the council with an agenda item to relocate specific public works divisions that are tied into operations at the wastewater treatment plant — including solid waste — to that site in advance of a permanent building being constructed by leasing portables.
Plan to create space for
center at Civic Center
was dropped in May
The items was removed from the council agenda and no action was taken.
That agenda item included a rental agreement with Pacific Modular Structures costing $154,258 to put in place temporary quarters for various public works division at the wastewater treatment plant. It included $4,100.08 a month for rent for 27 months, $29,148.49 for set up costs, and $14,406.08 for removal.
Once Public Works was moved to the mobile structure, the proposal was to move the Human Resources Department and Information and Technology Division along with the emergency operations center out of space they are renting at 302 Cherry Lane to save the city $150,000 in rental costs over the next two years.
While it may appear to be a wash — the $154,258 rental cost versus the $150,000 in rental savings by accelerating the move to the Civic Center from 302 Cherry Lane — it actually would have freed up $150,000 in the general fund to cover day-to-day government operations such as police and fire, parks and recreation, the library street maintenance, and library services.
It also would have represented a course change by the city. The council had approached the owner of the Cherry Lane to sell to the city but he declined.
In any case, it appears the space the city has its $450,000 emergency operations center in currently has been leased to another tenant forcing the fire department in the coming months to possibly operate a command center when needed out of then back of a battalion chief’s vehicle or set it up as need be at one of the city’s four fire stations.
What was behind the
2015 EOC decision
The 2015 decision establishing the current emergency operations center was made because the existing EOC at the time behind the Powers Avenue fire station was in a portable building that was in disrepair. It was scheduled to be moved to install solar panels to power the adjoining municipal water well.
The Cherry Lane location has two classrooms to meet various city needs when not in use as an EOC.
The annual operating costs for utilities and alarm systems was pegged at $13,000 in 2015.
The need for an Emergency Operations Center was underscored in the late 1980s when a chemical train derailed near Manteca High in heavy fog. That led to more than a 1,000 people being evacuated and scores of outside emergency workers to coordinate in controlling the situation.
That was followed by the 1997 floods required the evacuation of over 2,000 people and brought almost as many emergency workers into Manteca.
City officials noted in 2015 besides flooding and train derailments at EOC could be used for other major emergencies such as gas line explosions, a serious chemical spill on one of the two freeways that pass through Manteca or other emergencies.
The project was funded with $450,000 in bonus bucks paid by developers for sewer allocation certainty for new homes.
Effort to reduce ongoing
city government costs
Ogden’s effort to reduce ongoing city costs by re-examining building and property leases.
That was the case earlier this year when Ogden recommended the council take a similar step when they executed an option for an early buyout of land they were leasing where the animal shelter was built. That moved saved Manteca from making hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent payments after the price of the land purchase was factored in.
The money for the permanent public works building at the wastewater treatment plant that is expected to be constuicted within the next two years has been cobbled together from various accounts that do not involve the general fund such as solid waste, wastewater treatment, and water. The budget set aside for the permanent building and shop structure was $1.2 million. That set aside will be able to cover both the permanent building and rental building and still have $70,000 left over.
Ogden relooked at space use and determined it would be more cost effective to not just bring human services and IT back onto the main city office campus but to do so two years earlier by putting modular buildings at the treatment plant while moving the city functions at the Cherry Lane office building into the portable building at the Civic Center that house part of the public works division.
Ogden has said city shouldn’t be in the business of essentially making it profitable for private landlords to construct and own buildings noting that the city over the years has essentially spent enough in rent to replicate the office space at 302 Cherry Lane in a permanent structure.
In addition Ogden noted much of the public works attention is tied into the wastewater treatment. Once the permanent building is done the city will save an additional $7,200 a month by ending leases for the water division office space. That is on top of the savings from paying rent at 302 Cherry Lane
Also it would put human resources and IT that support other city departments as does the administrative offices on the same campus with most of the other departments as well as the city manager’s office.