By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Why the time has come for City of Manteca to ‘let go’ of Lincoln Park
wyatt art.jpg

New interchanges. New city hall. New police station. More library facilities. Public sector investment in downtown. Aquatics center. Better streets. Community center. Railroad underpass and/or overpass. Performing arts center. More sports fields. A sixth fire station. Teen center.

That’s a short list of wants and needs that people have when it comes to how the City of Manteca spends money it doesn’t yet have. The cost of the list — assuming everything is tackled — could easily exceed $600 million.

Then there is the $1 billion gorilla - the estimated modernization of Manteca Unified campuses yet to be addressed. That doesn’t include any new school construction.

If you are a City of Manteca resident — whether you pay property taxes directly as a homeowner or indirectly as a renter given property taxes are passed on in the form of rent — you are facing a financial hit. A sizable financial hit. Assume two-thirds of the school district’s upgrades are within the city given it has two thirds of the district enrollment; you’re looking at $1.2 billion in needs and wants.

There is a strong possibility when 2020 rolls around City of Manteca voters are going to be asked to approve two bonds — a $42 million plus bond measure for city recreation facilities and an ever larger bond measure for schools.

The reality — assuming key bureaucrats as well as elected leaders in the city and school district have a disease politely called “empire building” and are oblivious to the difficulty it is to get many people to vote for bond measures whether they are in a financial squeeze or simply don’t buy that the most cost effective proposal is being advanced — the two entities need to work together to maximize limited resources.

It’s ironic, in a way, that the last-minute look at a possible bond measure for the 2018 election that the Manteca Unified board wisely killed due to timing and lack of preparation focused on athletic facilities and physical education needs. Whether that will be a key component of the next bond proposal has yet to be determined.

Sports and recreation wants and needs are the focus of a potential city bond.

The city is toying with the idea of an aquatics center, community center/gym, and more sports fields.

Manteca Unified this summer will be demolishing the Manteca High swimming pool to make way for a new large gym needed as part of the effort to take the campus up to 2,200 students.

The city obviously needs land to build an aquatics center, community center/gym and more sports fields. Hopefully they are not toying with the idea of placing it on city owned land that is envisioned to be part of the family entertainment zone anchored by Great Wolf and Big League Dreams. For starters you couldn’t pick an area more isolated from Manteca neighborhoods if you tried. It is on the extreme western edge of the city and is surrounded by commercial and further buffered from homes by industrial zoning, the wastewater treatment plant and the 120 Bypass freeway. Besides that, the location reeks of “we’re building it here not to serve the community as much as to cater to out of town visitors dollars.” Good luck trying to pass a bond issue with that political albatross hanging around your neck.

There is a scenario that could save the school district money, reduce city costs, and solve a number of problems for both the city and school district.

The school district owns 60 or so acres on Tinnin Road in south Manteca acquired for what one day will be the fourth comprehensive high school within the city limits.

Manteca High has a challenge to put in place a “complete” high school campus for 2,200 students as well as to secure the campus as effectively as possible.

The city and school district need to do a “land swap” with the idea of building joint-use facilities but on their “own” dimes. The land deal would involve Lincoln Park being turned over to the school district to it can create a mega-campus connecting Manteca High and Lincoln School.

A new school would eventually need a swimming pool as well as baseball and soccer fields. Manteca High needs room for a replacement swimming pool.

The city could build an aquatics center as well as sports fields on the Tinnin Road property with an agreement that they will be used for high school programming when the time comes on a shared basis. Lincoln Park already has a useable baseball field in place and with the removal of the playground, Lincoln Pool, and picnic area has adequate room for a high school swimming pool.

Lincoln is designated a community park because of the swimming pool, group picnic area and larger playground. Except for the baseball field and parking lot that is the extent of the park. The rest of the use involves Lincoln School fields that the community uses for Manteca Little League.

Lincoln Park is also Manteca’s de facto homeless park. By that it means after the park closes to everyone regardless of their housing situation, the homeless take over the picnic structure. Drive by at night or at 2 a.m. and the odds are you will find homeless gathered there either cooking food, chilling or in the winter trying to stay warm with fire in the BBQ. That in in itself is not a problem. What is the problem are nook and crannies that exist between the park and two campuses that have become places for the homeless to bunk down. Given some of the undesirable elements that intermix with people who are simply housing challenged, it’s just a matter of time before things don’t end well. With the closure of part of Garfield Avenue and pending campus improvements, the Manteca High campus will be less of a sieve. The goal should be to eliminate anyone — including the homeless — from being able to access the school campus at will.  More than once in recent years they have been spotted walking through the campus via Garfield during school hours with large hunting knives strapped to their side.

If Manteca High builds a replacement pool where Lincoln Pool is now, the land deal would make it clear that the city can run swimming programs out of it as they have at Lincoln Pool for 55 years. It could even been designed with a wading pool so that it would be 100 percent useable as a community pool. Given it would be along Powers Avenue it would still have easy public access as a community pool.

To address the issue is a neighborhood park, a mini-park much like Ripon has with primarily playground equipment only could be carved out of the site.

Unless you are into fiefdom building, such a deal makes sense on many levels:

*It gives the City of Manteca two swimming pools.

*It greatly reduces the cost of support facilities for a fourth high school within the city limits.

*It provides a complete campus for Manteca High that has been designated as the initial high school campus that will be taken up to 2,200 students to accommodate growth south of the 120 Bypass.

*It secures Manteca High and Lincoln School.

The bottom line is the school district and city have a lot of needs and wants and not that much money. Whatever they can do as true partners out of the gate to whittle down the list will benefit not just taxpayers but generations of Manteca residents to come.