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Budget concerns don’t delay public works contract approvals
• Projects not from General Fund
Ceres council on zoom
Monday's Ceres City Council was conducted via Zoom on the internet. At top row are Mayor Chris Vierra, City Manager Tom Westbrook and Police Chief Rick Collins; in the second row down are Vice Mayor Linda Ryno, City Engineer Daniel Padilla and Councilman Mike Kline; third row are Councilman Channce Condit, Fire Chief Kevin Wise and Finance Director Leticia Dias; bottom row is Councilman Bret Durossette, City Attorney Tom Hallinan and Pastor Joel Boone who gave the invocation.

With an anticipated hit to the city’s share of sales tax revenue because of the COVID-19 lockdown and the closing of many retailers, Councilman Channce Condit expressed fears last week about the city awarding contracts for two public works projects.

But he and the rest of the council decided to award them anyway based on the input of City Engineer David Padilla.

Condit wondered aloud if it might be better to wait “until we get a better grasp of the budget shortfall.” The first contract discussed was in the amount of $63,320 to Pipe and Plant Solutions, Inc., to dewater three miles of an 18-inch sewer force main used to pipe treated effluent from the Ceres wastewater plant to Turlock where it is disposed of through percolation. The contract also calls for performing a closed-circuit television inspection, and replacing five air release valve assemblies. City Manager Tom Westbrook said the project is funded by the recent wastewater bond refunding that the city wishes to expend in a timely manner. It is not money that comes from the General Fund and Finance Director Leticia Dias said the city has three years to spend the bond funds, which can only be spent on sewer infrastructure.

“This is kind of a maintenance thing to evaluate the line and make sure we don’t have any leaks in addition to its replacing some air release valves,” said Westbrook.

Padilla opined that the project involved “one of our most critical infrastructure. This line has been in the ground for about 15 years and we have never inspected the pipe … I would highly recommend that we reward this project.”

He said the project, which has been in the works for about nine months, resulted in the city receiving a “good” bid in terms of pricing.

Mayor Chris Vierra said the project was being funded from what was already collected from ratepayers.

Construction is not expected to start until August.

Public Works Director Jeremy Damas said an added benefit will be the city can run the effluent through existing sand filters not currently being used which should lower the biological oxygen demand (BOD) levels and reduce the monthly costs that Turlock charges Ceres.

The Ceres wastewater treatment plants takes in about 2.25 million gallons of wastewater per day from throughout the city and pipes about one million gallons to Turlock. The rest is percolated into the ground at the Ceres plant.

Ceres resident John Warren emailed in a comment suggesting that it might be prudent to put off the work because of anticipated budget shortfalls. But Mayor Vierra said that matter had been already addressed and that the funding has already been rolled into sewer rates.

When it went to a vote all five members supported the contract.

The second contract under consideration was to Collins Electrical for $116,382 worth of work to replace existing pedestrian countdown heads and push-button improvements at various Intersections on Hatch Road, Whitmore Avenue, Crows Landing Road and Mitchell Road.

Padilla explained that the project is funded by a $159,309 state Highway Safety Improvement Program grant in 2017.

“We feel that now is a good time to construct the project with traffic volumes being lower than normal and this is for pedestrian safety,” he said.

An email was read from Warren again who suggested the city could wait but it was apparent that he didn’t have information at the time about the funds being from grants already awarded.