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Projects may be in store for downtown
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Mum was the word from shop keepers and business owners who were asked to weigh in about how monies will be spent from the assessments they pay on downtown improvements.

No merchants turned out for a Monday, Aug. 12 public hearing on the assessments to be levied on downtown businesses.

In the 1989 the city formed the Ceres Downtown Revitalization Area to spruce up downtown. Typically, assessments only pay for electricity to light the streets at night, maintain the landscaping and put up and take down seasonal decorations.

However the city is considering doing more with the district. Possible ideas to be considered by the board include:

• Offering a façade improvement loan program;

• Hosting monthly "signature" events such as a farmer's market;

• Planting a community garden;

• Nominating a business of the year;

• Adding a micro-enterprise program to provide financial assistance to businesses for technical expertise;

• Hosting business assistance seminars;

• Adding a business incubator program;

• Adding trash receptacles or benches.

When none of the downtown merchants showed up to provide input, Councilman Bret Durossette asked Bryan Briggs, the city's economic development director, "were they notified about this meeting tonight?"

Briggs answered that he sent businessmen three emails, sent mailers, walked downtown to personally invite merchants as well as run two notices in the Courier. He said the feedback he received was the same as before: "Sure, if we can make it we'll come."

"This is an important thing," said Durossette. "It would sure be nice to really have them buy in, to jump on board."

Lourdes Perez of the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children told the council that she supports any program that would bring families into downtown. So defended business owners as being interested in downtown improvement but said "I just don't know why they don't seem to attend."

The council approved a budget to spend $21,340 to cover the basic services. A budget amendment will have to occur if the district decides to expand its projects or programs, said Briggs.