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Council approves part-timers’ pay, full-time CSO
• Public Works to buy four new pickups
Ceres city seal new

The Ceres City Council voted recently to increase the pay for part-time, seasonal or temporary city employees beginning Feb. 4.

Human Resources Director Delilah Vasquez said that the hourly rates had to be increased due to the hike in the state’s minimum wage of $16 and that one of the recreation positions was below that and needed to be raised.

Raises were also ordered for reserve public safety dispatcher and reserve police officer classifications as well as recreation employees and those who are hired to run the summer swim program.

Vasquez said “it is critical that the city remain competitive in the local labor market and attract fully trained and qualified candidates.”

Councilwoman Rosalinda Vierra asked Vasquez if the pay increases would be opening the city up to unfair labor practice liability given that regular dispatchers are demanding higher pay.

“Especially with the union already expressing that they don’t feel we’re working with them or the city’s doing their due diligence so I just want to make sure that we’re doing what we need to be when it comes to our employees,” said Vierra.

Vasquez stated that none of the positions are part of any labor group.

Full-time CSO

The council also approved turning the Ceres Police Department’s Community Service Officer (CSO) position from part-time into full time.

In the past few years, the demand for community-oriented policing has increased, creating the need for a full-time Community Service Officer position dedicated to non-emergency and community service tasks.

The move comes at a time when Ceres Police Department is woefully short on sworn officers. Ceres Police currently has 42 sworn officers hired, 10 short of the 52 positions allotted. According to interim Police Chief Chris Perry, Ceres is finding it difficult to hiring officers due to competing pay scales with nearby agencies and a waning interest in people wanting to be officer. However, he said the Community Service Officer position is one way to offset certain police duties. Funding the CSO position can be done at a fraction of the cost of hiring a police officer, yet they are able to perform many critical tasks normally assigned to a patrol officer.

A CSO is responsible for responding to non-emergency calls, such as minor accidents, noise complaints, and public nuisances; assisting with traffic control during events and emergencies; conducting community outreach programs and crime prevention initiatives; and providing support for crime scene investigations, including the collection and processing of evidence.

Four trucks to be purchased

In other action, the council authorized the purchase of four vehicles for the Public Works Department from Rush Truck Centers of Ceres for $258,581.41 and a budget amendment of $206,861.41.

The vehicles are for use in the water, sewer and streets divisions.

Shortly after the pandemic of 2020, Ford Motor halted the production of government priced fleet vehicles and the city was unable to obtain many new fleet style vehicles at a reasonable price due to a depletion of vehicle inventory. Meanwhile the older vehicles still in service are in constant need of repair. Making matters worse, one of the city’s vehicles is no longer California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliant, and in violation of current state emission standards, putting the city at risk for state fines of $1,000 to $10,000 per day due to strict regulations.

The city budgets each year toward the cost of replacing vehicles at the end of their 10 to 12-year life but Public Works Director Samir Royal said the program has not caught up with “extreme inflation.”

Councilwoman Rosalinda Vierra wanted to know why the purchase seemed like a rush, if the city is seeking grants and about electric vehicles.

Royal said the rush is due to vehicle availability.

“They’re really due for replacement,” said Royal. “These vehicles are continuously in repair. We are almost depleting the repairs fund … these vehicles are 20 years old.”

He also said the city wants to place one EV in the fleet to gauge the level of repairs and maintenance. 

The city was awarded a $20,000 grant through the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to help buy the one EV.

Budgeted O&M fiscal year funds are quickly being depleted ahead of schedule due to these costly repairs.