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City Hall to open Monday for first time since COVID
Ceres finance dept
City Hall and its annex -- where residents can pay their city utility bill -- will be opening May 3 for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were enacted in March 2020.

City officials are preparing to reopen City Hall and the Ceres Police Department for public business beginning on Monday, May 3 – the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were enacted by the state in March 2020.

City Manager Tom Westbrook said that in-person attendance at the Ceres Community Center will still be limited by the state because of assembly use requirements.

The city has been installing partitions in preparation for an eventual reopening.

He suggested reopening to allow the public to come in and make utility payments and attend to other business like building permits.

“They come in to get a business license, get a building permit for a re-roof or water heater, submit plans at the Planning Division, but we do get a steady stream of folks in the planning and engineering division but most of the heavy lifting is at the utility counter.”

Westbrook believes that many people will continue to pay their utility bills online or over the phone which is what many have been doing the past 13 months.

Since the state-imposed restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, persons have had the ability to make appointments to conduct business in City Hall but the doors have been locked to prevent people from freely walking in.

The Ceres Police Department lobby will also open up starting Monday for folks needing to do business, such as deal with detectives, obtain copies of traffic accident reports or pay lien releases on towed vehicles.

Stanislaus County was recently placed in the red tier from the purple tier which has allowed restricted indoor dining in and gym use.

At the April 12 Ceres City Council meeting, Councilwoman Linda Ryno asked if the city will be held to 25 percent capacity, saying, “I mean, if we’re going to open it, why don’t we just open it?”

Westbrook said as long as there isn’t a lot of crowding occurring inside City Hall, he feels there is no sense in limiting attendance.

The Community Center will still fall under health guidelines limiting physical attendance to 25 percent capacity. Some recreation classes have resumed, said Westbrook, however, the city will still be limiting the numbers of people who rent rooms at the center.

“The concern is if you come in and say I want to have 50th birthday party and we’re like, ‘Okay, you can rent the large assembly room but you can only have 75 people in here or something.’ I think that’s the only thing we’re concerned about, making sure that when we rent the facility that we’re in compliance with state guidelines for gatherings.”

The Ceres Rotary Club is back to using the center for meetings. Big Valley Grace Church has also been holding worship services in the large assembly room at the center.