Qualex: A growing concern that has highlighted the shortcomings of the municipality


Your memories could have been made in Manteca years ago, even if you never lived here, only whizzed along the 120 Bypass to the Bay Area, or even if you didn’t. ‘ve never set foot in the city.

Well, “made” is not as specific as “processed”.

It is in Manteca that Eastman Kodak and Fuqua Industries have chosen to set up one of their 53 photo processing laboratories. The joint venture started in 1988 eventually became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kodak in 1994.

The photo processing company was known as Qualex. And next to Indy Electronics, which became Alphatec-turned-turnkey Solutions, it was the largest employer in the Manteca industrial park.

Its name is still talked about today in a way no one in the late 1980s could have imagined when Qualex opened its state-of-the-art factory that processed rolls of film dropped off at photo finishing counters in supermarkets and stores. drugstores or drive-thru kiosks such as Fotomat and returned several days later to pick up.

If you have no idea what a Fotomat or a drive-through kiosk is, think of “That 70’s Show” and the place where Hyde worked which belonged to Leo. If you still don’t understand, Eric Forman’s daddy Red won’t hesitate to tell you what he thinks about your intellectual capacities.

The name Qualex has survived in Manteca after the fateful decision of the Manteca City Council serving as commissioners of the Manteca Redevelopment Agency to purchase the Qualex property at 555 Industrial Park for $ 3.6 million in 2006, two years after its closure.

Don’t laugh too hard but the city bought it to save money.

The city council determined in 2001 that Manteca had outgrown its police station. Some staff were literally using converted supply rooms. The building was as secure as a hot dog stand in South Stockton.

They also believed that the town hall needed more space, although it was not as essential as the police needed it.

The council agreed that new facilities were needed, but choked on price estimates to reconfigure the campus at 1001 West Center Street, which involved the construction of several multi-story buildings. They just couldn’t afford the $ 35 million price tag.

So they gave the staff their marching orders: find a way to build a new municipal police station and not renovate the town hall. And do it as cheaply as possible.

That’s when staff researched existing buildings assuming it would be cheaper to renovate them than buying raw land and building from scratch.

When Qualex closed 31 of its 53 processing plants in 2004, public works staff saw an opportunity. At 57,000 square feet, it was more than double the police facility at 1001 W. Center St. Not only did it have room to expand, but there was even talk of including an indoor firing range. .

The location got high marks for being more centrally located, which means better overall response times should additional department staff need to be sent to the field.

The assumption was that once all said and done, the city could have a new police station to serve Manteca for about 30 years for $ 11 million or about $ 2-3 million less than a structure built in start from nothing.

The city spent GDR money to modernize the structure to meet the more stringent earthquake-proof standards required for public safety buildings. They even made significant improvements to the roof.

Meanwhile, the board and senior management were debating whether to complete the project. So what was the big concern? They didn’t like the cost even though it was considered cheaper.

It was during a time when the city was looking for new housing for law enforcement that the need for secure and fenced parking became critical for the police station following several security issues that could have turned bad.

The council was convinced to move forward with improvements to the parking lot at the corner of Cherry Lane and Center Street.

The decision prompted some backlash from the community, as it involved the removal of several large trees. It also became a minor issue in an election cycle when challengers argued it was a waste of money given the city had a deadline to be in a new police station here. two to three years.

The board return fly – secure parking would still be required for municipal vehicles to handle the growth and eventual conversion of the police station to additional information on city offices.

As Manteca took its time due to price anxiety, the council was afraid to jump into the project.

That’s because the California legislature in the midst of the waddling city of indecision passed a requirement that new police stations with holding cells must have full-time jail staff. That, at the time, translated into $ 240,000 per year in additional staff.

Fifteen years after the city’s big promise was made and the decision was made to do the project on the cheap and $ 5 million more in taxes paid to the Qualex site for a police station, there was no there is nothing to show.

Yes, the city will likely make around $ 200,000 from the sale of the Qualex property, as the proceeds from a sale to the Manteca Unified School District, or a private company if that deal is not reached, must be divided by the law between the 11 locate tax agencies on a pro rata basis.

Some in the city have the audacity to argue that the $ 5 million wasted on a half-hearted snail-speed effort to secure a new police station was technically not real city money. But it was money that a large chunk of Manteca landowners swept into the GDR from which taxpayer money was diverted from paying for daily municipal services such as police, firefighters and streets to fund. the GDR. The reality is that thousands of Manteca owners have over 15 years to withdraw outstanding RDA bonds.

To sum up, $ 5 million plus slow, tasteless city leadership equates to no new police station while throwing $ 4.8 million down the toilet.

Digital cameras and smartphones may have done in Qualex.

But indecision, the confusion between financial conservatism and cheapness, and the inability to operate more than a crawl made ownership of the old Qualex property less valuable to Manteca taxpayers than owning a train of 110 Instamatic film cartridges.

At least you could get the movie money back. The closest thing to a precious metal that the city will collect from Qualex is Fool’s Gold.

As for the police department, at least they got something to meet some of their needs. It now has an evidence-dearth facility that is 100 times more secure than the lobby and the rest of the police station.

This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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