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City to beef up code enforcement with ARPA funds
Blight in Ceres
Dealing with code enforcement and blight messes like this on the frontage road will be a bit easier with the addition of extra staff thanks to ARPA funds. The council remains concerned that the funding will only help out for the next two fiscal year cycles at which time the city will need to figure out a strategy for funding or layoff personnel. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

Under a half million dollars of ARPA funds will be used in Ceres to bolster code enforcement activities, including adding more staff and buying more equipment.

“Illegal dumping, unpermitted vendors and unauthorized camping have been an issue for many years,” said Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins who addressed the Ceres City Council last week. “Business activities, property maintenance standards and zoning violations are also a concern.”

He proposed adding one full-time code enforcement officer to the unit and two part-time street officers to assist Bertolotti Disposal in picking up illegal dumps.

Collins recommended saving money by shifting the supervision of the unit to a police lieutenant rather than adding a code enforcement supervisor. To make up for the added duties, he proposed a pay increase of five percent.

He noted that the two-year investment would cost the city $480,000.

“At the end of the two years’ operation staff will have to examine the feasibility of sustaining the increased staffing,” said Chief Collins. “If that is not possible reductions in staffing will be considered.”

Resident John Warren said the beefed up code enforcement efforts are needed but didn’t feel the lieutenant who supervises the unit should get more pay.

“The city Police Department has been tasked … with being in charge of code enforcement and with that goes the supervision of code enforcement. All the other projects in the Police Department don’t come with a five percent raise.”

Paula Redfern preferred the city has a working supervisor, noting that a lieutenant wouldn’t be immersing into the training of the legalities involved in code enforcement.

“It takes years to get that information,” she told the council.

A working supervisor, she noted, would also be out doing inspections to increase productivity.

Councilman Mike Kline said he is fine with a lieutenant supervising the unit at higher pay, saying “we have to start somewhere.”

“A year from now we might realize that we do need a (working) supervisor,” said Kline.

Chief Collins said that “in a perfect world” he would recommend a working supervisor but said “it’s just not in the card with the amount of money that we have for this project.”

The unit’s supervision will transfer from Captain Pat Crane to Lt. Chris Perry and that he is “deeply immersing himself in the world of code enforcement to get that expertise that is needed to properly supervise the unit.”

The unit will work seven days a week and four 10-hour days.

Councilman James Casey said code enforcement is on the minds of residents and that he will hold Ceres Police Department and the city attorney accountable to improve the appearance of Ceres.

“It’s a shame that I have to talk to our city manager and to Christopher (Hoem who is the Community Development director) to get something done (about code enforcement),” said Casey.

Vice Mayor Bret Silveira said he is happy to see a plan coming together and said the city is fortunate to have extra money from the American Recovery Plan Act.

“Let’s keep the momentum going,” said Silveira. “Let’s try to figure out how we’re going to make this longer than two years. If we have some more ARPA money maybe we can extend it. All the different city departments need to figure out how we can continue, with this staffing level, this service to the community after the ARPA money is gone.”

Part of the city’s code enforcement expenditures will be used to buy mobile computers and placing surveillance cameras at locations where illegal dumping has been a persistent problem.

In a May council workshop, City Manager Alex Terrazas said that part of the effort to fight blight will include educating the public.