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Why the letters LMD one day may cost you big money living in Manteca
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You may yawn when you read about landscape maintenance districts (LMD) and turn the page.

To do so, though, may ignore the fact an LMD could one day cost you big money.

The acronym is more than just bureaucratic jargon even if you don’t live in a home currently that is within an LMD. That’s because the trend is to load more and more ongoing maintenance costs into LMDs. Now not only is the more park maintenance being added to assessments for new LMDs but there is a good chance ongoing street light costs and day-to-day storm drainage costs for a neighborhood will be tossed in as well. You may not live in an LMD today but if you move - you may live in a home you are buying or renting that is subject to LMD assessments. Some of those annual LMD assessments that include park maintenance plus common landscaping are already hovering around $400 a year per home.

Councilman Steve DeBrum requested - and got - an additional 45 days to examine the ramifications of the proposed Manteca municipal policy to make sure there isn’t a repeat of twin messes an out-of-town developer created at Tesoro Park and Union Ranch Park.

In a nutshell, the city wants to make sure neighborhood parks are completed before the first house is sold and that the landscape maintenance district funding mechanism is in place before folks start buying homes from the builder.

That way there’s no chance the city’s general fund would be burdened by maintaining additional neighborhood parks. At the same time, it provides buyers with a clear picture of what they are getting into when they sign escrow. Well, it’s almost clear.

That’s why one hopes DeBrum’s knack to question whether the city is doing something in the most cost effective manner comes into play.

The LMDs are rapidly approaching $1 million a year in combined cost to city property owners.

It is a significant amount of change.

Up until the budget crisis that triggered the decision for the city to take over LMD maintenance the official line of municipal leaders was that the private sector was doing it much more cost effective than the city could. Some might say it is amazing how the prospect of having to cut four city jobs got the city to examine an ongoing municipal expenditure to make sure that is done in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. There is little doubt the city is keeping up their end of the bargain. And no one can says municipal park workers deployed on LMD work aren’t doing anything but a top-notch job.

But here’s the rub. It wasn’t until the budget crisis that the city concerned itself much with implementing water efficiency practices in LMDs that cut water use and cost by 10 percent. Nor did anyone try to negotiate aggressively with the consultant that does the statutory work for financial oversight to lower his charges from about $100,000 for all of the districts down to $34,000 a year including a three-year contract with no increase.

It is why a suggestion from Woodward Park area resident David Marks made at Tuesday’s council meeting should be looked at over the next 45 days as well as the proposed municipal park development policy.

In essence, Marks believes the city should have the developer pay for the first full-year of park maintenance after grass is established. That way they can provide true costs of the upkeep to assure everyone that residents aren’t being charged more than necessary once the reserve and administrative costs are factored into the equation.

This won’t be an exercise in futility.

Del Webb at Woodbridge - which has immaculate landscaping upkeep standards - picked up the tab for annual upkeep of the common landscaping along Union Road and Airport Way for awhile and proved they could do it for significantly less. Granted, they didn’t build a prudent ongoing 25 percent reserve but other than that they did everything the city does.

Once they have a true base cost, the city could go one step further. They could require the city to bid against private contractors to provide the annual maintenance for the specific LMD.

That way there is the greatest assurance that the LMD work is being done in the most effective and cost efficient manner.

It also makes it clear what city government is about providing services first and foremost and not employment opportunities.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.