Manteca does not need a gleaming, new police station.
What the city needs, though, is one that is secure, functional, can handle community needs, and is customer friendly for law-abiding citizens.
Manteca outgrew its current police station 20 years ago. That’s not some wild eyed guess. It’s what elected Manteca leaders that held office two decades ago proclaimed. And like a number of capital improvement needs in Manteca, there were false starts and major investments. To touch on the big ones there was nearly $100,000 sunk into the third masterplan study for the city campus at 1001 W. Center St., $2.6 million for acreage along South Main intended for the construction of a courthouse/police station, and in excess of $3.6 million squandered on the 55,000-square-foot former Qualex building on Industrial Park Drive with the idea to convert it into new police headquarters.
Current elected leaders should not be held responsible for the failures and waste of their predecessors or previous city administrations. What they need to be held accountable, though, is their failure to make a bad situation better.
The Manteca Police Department is split into a series of separate building — permanent and portables with open breezeways extremely visible to the public— secured by a 6-foot wrought-iron fence that can easily be scaled or, heaven forbid, used to do the unimaginable given isn’t a solid wall. It is a leading candidate for the worst security of any California police department serving cities 70,000 or larger in population.
If the wacko who drove to the Ripon Police Department near midnight a few years back and opened fire on that community’s newer, fairly state-of-the-art police building did so in Manteca, god help the men and women who serve and protect us.
It is a said state of affairs when night cashiers at gas stations have bullet proof glass and those that deal with the public in the police station’s lobby don’t.
The lobby itself screams “customer service is an afterthought”. It’s cramped and lacks any technology such as a kiosk similar to what Councilwoman Debby Moorhead has encountered in Bay Area police agencies where many routine needs of citizens can be significantly addressed in a manner that drastically cuts wait time by reducing the need for face-to-face contact with the front window staff that does a Herculean job given the building they work in.
It is of no comfort that the working quarters of police staff beyond the lobby isn’t much better.
The police department built 39 years ago in 1978 when Manteca had 22,000 residents wasn’t designed for the needs of a force required to protect and serve a community of 76,000 that within 20 years is projected to hit 124,500.
Ripon had foresight a decade ago. Lathrop is now getting ready to build bigger quarters for their police department. Manteca is still struck in 1979.
In fairness, in recent months the city seems to be making headway on a number of things that have stalled for years including the costly failure to update growth fees for major roads in a timely manner. They are on the verge of bringing five major infrastructure projects to the groundbreaking stage — the apparatus to convert food waste into fuel while upgrading key wastewater treatment plant components, the Union Road interchange, the McKinley interchange, completing the Atherton Drive, rehabbing Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Atherton Drive, and repaving Yosemite Avenue from Main Street to Cottage Avenue/Spreckels Avenue.
The city has just completed several significant endeavors including a new evidence building at the police station that appears significantly more secure than the rest of the police complex.
Top that off with a possible Great Wolf deal for an indoor waterpark and hotel resort deal that promises to be a game changer and there is a lot of good things in the works.
Unfortunately one of them is not addressing the abysmal building that police have made do with for way too long.
Need anyone on the council be reminded that with every passing month, more homes are being built that will escape any fee increase needed to provide for adequate police facilities. That means less and less money to go toward a new police station.
Before a tragedy happens or police staff needs to be issued shoe horns to squeeze into the department, the city needs to get a plan in place, adopt fees, and work toward making changes.
A reasonable course of action would be to put an absolute deadline in place that a decision whether to stay on site or build elsewhere is made in six months then a general working plan that allows a cost figure to be attached to space needs based on whether to stay or move can be developed and put in place before 2019 rolls around.
Frankly, we shouldn’t care about past sins and past failures. What is needed is to focus on is doing it right and positioning Manteca to have the resources and tools in place to serve a vibrant city of 124,500 which is where we will in all likelihood be by 2040.
That said, it’s true that failure to plan is a plan to fail.