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City making progress on ARPA funded projects
• City manager updates Ceres City Council
ceres city seal

Anticipating a second round of federal funds under the ARPA (American Recovery Plan Act), in March the Ceres City Council outlined where it wants to spend $5.8 million. At its meeting of August 22 City Manager Alex Terrazas gave the council an update on some of the projects to be funded.

Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) in March 2021 which established the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. The fund helps cities, counties and states with the pandemic recovery assistance and some kinds of infrastructure investment.  The funds must be committed by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Ceres received $5.8 million in July 2021 and got another $5.8 million last month.

The U.S. Treasury Department outlined rules on the ARPA funds may be spent, including offering “premium pay” for workers performing “essential” work; replacing lost tax revenue; for programs, services or capital expenditures that respond to the public health and negative economic impact of the pandemic; to mitigate and prevent COVID; and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

ARPA funds may not be used to offset a reduction in net tax revenue resulting from a change in state law. They also cannot be used as a contribution to shore up pension funds. They also cannot be used to pay down on debt service nor replenish rainy day funds.

Terrazas said the city has not spent $550,000 from the first round to join the $5.8 million.

The city manager explained that the city has started to upgrade to the enterprise class of wireless infrastructure at City Hall. The city is also in the process of installing mobile data computers in police patrol vehicles at a cost of $65,000 but the Cradlepoint wireless connection to those cars has not started, likely due to supply chain issues.

The city has also done research on buying and installing security cameras at park and city facilities at a cost of $530,000 but has more work to do. In July Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins outlined that 33 cameras and 11 gateways were to be purchased to be installed in River Bluff Park, Smyrna Park and its skate park and city yard, Roeding Heights Park and tennis courts and gazebo, Strawberry Fields Park and Whitmore Park and its gazebo. Collins said his department plans to ask for more money in the near future using a second round of ARPA funds to equip other areas of Ceres with cameras, including more parks and some street intersections.

The city is in the process of adding a $250,000 replacement of the security system in the Ceres Police Department building which is now 30 years old. A new card key system is being added with a replacement of all door locks in and around police building. Also in process is a $40,000 upgrade to the police officers’ duty gear storage room.

Not undertaken yet is the purchase of a $125,000 Critical Incident mobile command post for incidences requiring complex negotiations before tactical teams are deployed. The department has the trained personnel to handle these incidents but does not have a mobile command post.

The city has purchased and deployed three speed trailers at various locations as a visual deterrent to curb on the incidence of speeding motorists. The council allocated $75,000 for the three trailers.

Completed is a $15,000 upgrade of the city police and city staff gym.

Also in place is $7,500 worth of mobile devices for Ceres Police Department’s social media team to take and edit pictures and videos for posting to social media. Previously personal devices were used on the task.

The city is presently recruiting to fill three new positions for code enforcement. The council allocated $500,000 to add one additional full-time code enforcement officer and two part-timers for two years using ARPA funds as well as equipment.

Also not started is a $25,000 project to digitalize public records and make them accessible to the public. They are now only available on microfilm reader which is not fully functional.

The city has begun to order a $15,000 upgrade and enhancement of the audio-visual system in the City Council Chambers and replacement of microphones to adjustable movable microphones at the dais.

On the finished list is $15,000 worth of new sound equipment for Concerts in the Park, Ceres Street Faire, and other city holiday events.

Also not started are the improvements and addition of irrigation and turf at Ochoa Park. The council preliminarily decided to commit $400,000 of ARPA funds toward making the park a more useable space. Last week the council approved a plan to survey the community on what additional improvements they wish to see in the park.

The city has yet to start on building $75,000 worth of additional trails and walkways for Don Pedro, Strawberry Fields and River Bluff Regional parks.

The city has ordered the $125,000 machine to paint stripes for soccer fields to save hours of manpower.

“I’m looking forward to a demo on that project,” said City Manager Terrazas. “It’d be fun to watch.”

The city has yet to explore the feasibility of an indoor gym or soccer facility that could be an existing structure. Such a study could assist the city in obtaining grants in the future. The council OK’d $50,000 for such a study.

The city has started to upgrade the equipment in the Traffic Operations Center with latest technology including server, fiber optic terminal hub, program software and monitor unit. The project is costing $100,000.

Completed is the addition of $10,000 for foggers to sanitize city office areas and personal protective equipment to help combat COVID-19.

The city has also enacted its street tree pruning program by grids since the council allocated $250,000 for the work.

To maintain the lower terrace of the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park, the city is recruiting new parks workers.

Completed was a $90,000 upgrade of the emergency medical equipment on two fire vehicles to allow for advanced life support services when a paramedic firefighter is assigned. The equipment allows for a higher level of service and better response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Equipment also includes advanced life support monitors, airway equipment, and medications that can be utilized by a paramedic.

Terrazas reported that the city paid $750,000 in premium pay “bonuses” for “eligible workers performing essential work.”

Yet to take place is the hiring of a temporary project manager to oversee the completion of the vast list of city projects at a cost of $100,000.

Hitting a snag is the $200,000 project to allow shoppers to load their RAD card and get matched, dollar for dollar, up to $100 and thus shop local. This program will be expanded to include businesses throughout Ceres, not just downtown. Terrazas said the city is working with its partner, the Downtown Modesto Association, to get the program up and running.

Coming up soon will be a $75,000 project to develop wayfinding signs directing traffic to key public facilities such as City Hall, Library, Community Center, Whitmore Museum, Whitmore Mansion, police/fire departments, Ceres High School, future ACE Railroad station, and public parking.

Yet to be developed is a $100,000 program to support local economic recovery efforts through grants, fee waivers/deferrals, and possibly other incentives that enhance the economic vitality of downtown Ceres.

Terrazas reported that it’s questionable if the city will be able to realize a $5,000 plan to cover the sign sitting atop the former First Interstate Bank facing Highway 99 to advertise “Downtown Ceres.”

“I honestly don’t know if that’s moving forward given our discussions with that building owner.”

Lastly, the city is working on ordering banners to recognize Ceres’ military personnel. The city approved $20,000 to start the program to line El Camino, Third, and Fifth, Lawrence and North streets with banners.

The City Council has yet to allocate $3.5 million from the second round and $550,000 left over from the first round of funds.

In June the council approved $1.1 million from the second round of ARPA cash to balance the city’s 2022-23 fiscal budget. It also allocated $400,000 for a local match to a state grant to upgrade Smyrna Park, and $750,000 for “eligible” city employees.

Vice Mayor Bret Silveira said he believed the ARPA funds remaining should be spent “to take care of long-term infrastructure projects like parks, water and sewer, with this money,” adding that he wants parks as a priority.

Councilman Mike Kline said the city has two years to decide how to spend the funds and doesn’t want hasty decisions made. But he also added that Ochoa and Lions parks are long overdue for completion.

Minimal improvements to Ochoa Park would cost $1.2 million. The city is proposing to cover the cost by using $1.1 million of ARPA funds (also diverting $600,000 in ARPA funds earmarked for the unfinished Lions Park project) plus $172,000 in park facility fees. Ochoa Park, however, could conceivably cost $1.7 to $2.5 million, said Kline.