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Housing element in need of update
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Ceres officials say the city has no choice but to hire a professional firm to update the Housing Element of the General Plan. But City Council members made it clear last week that they want to know specifically how staff plans to oversee the contract so that costs don't runaway as with some recent contracts.

The council was poised to contract with RBF Consulting at its March 23 meeting but stopped when staff stumbled over a question from Mayor Anthony Cannella. He wanted to know specifically who in the Community Development Department would be overseeing consultants and what projects might have to be shifted to the back burner.

Department director Ken Craig admitted that the task will be harder now that Planning Director Barry Siebe was layed off out of budget concerns. He was not able to tell Cannella specifically what projects would suffer at the task of overseeing RBF.

Only Craig and senior planner Tom Westbrook are available to do the work, he said.

Without an updated Housing Element, the city would fail to be in compliance with state law and could risk Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

The matter will be brought up at the April 13 council meeting.

Councilmen have been troubled by a rash of recent consultant contracts that weren't closely watched and ended up costing taxpayers more money than budgeted.

The Housing Element is mandated by the state to set housing goals for the city. The state uses the element to require a certain percentage of housing available for very-low-, low-, moderate-income families.

Elements must be updated as cities grow and housing targets change.

The contract is proposed to cost the city $98,730.