A resolution to spend $145,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act to clean the air ducts of various city buildings was put on hold last week out of one member’s concern that only bid was received.
The council also held off on using federal funds to purchase security cameras for the parks.
The council had previously approved the concept of using some of the ARPA monies to clean the air ducts of the Community Center, Legion Hall, City Hall, Annex, and Public Safety buildings. Those ducts have not been cleaned in years for lack of funds.
Councilman James Casey pulled the item, noting a lack of more bidders. But Sam Royal, the city’s acting Public Works Director, said three firms were invited to bid and only Coit Cleaning and Restoration answered.
Ceres resident John Osgood, who might be a candidate for council this year, voiced his objection in using federal monies for routine maintenance.
“ARPA funds aren’t here forever and I’m pretty sure the three of you know my feelings on those funds,” said Osgood. “Those funds were taxed unlawfully, unconstitutionally. We’re basing our city budget on those funds. Number one, they’re stolen from the people. Number two, they’re not going to be here later to bail us out. Should have sent all those funds back to Washington, D.C. and told them, ‘You will not take advantage of us. We are intelligent enough to budget our own city.’ We need to take care of these kinds of things – air duct cleanings – out of the General Fund.”
He noted too that the city had no money in the General Fund to clean ducts “so we’re begging Uncle Sam for money.”
Local governments were allocated the money by Congress, which has the sole authority to levy federal taxes.
John Warren noted that the bid was not broken down by how many employees will be used or the hourly rate.
“It was just a number,” said Warren. “Eighty thousand dollars for City Hall and no breakdown. That’s not a bid. A bid itemizes everything that’s gonna be done.”
Royal reported that since federal tax dollars are being used, the company billed at prevailing union wage. He also said an itemization was not necessary since it was just duct cleaning and not a technical undertaking like a road project.
Mayor Javier Lopez motioned for the council to table the item “to further discussion.” Silveira seconded with Casey, who voiced his initial concerns about one bid, voting no. The motion carried 2-1.
Mike Kline was absent at the meeting and the District 2 seat remains vacant until the election.
Cameras for parks
The council also engaged in a discussion about spending $530,000 in ARPA funds for security cameras at parks and city facilities.
Casey pulled the item because he noted that Guillermo Ochoa Park wasn’t listed among the parks where cameras are to be placed. Police Chief Rick Collins had 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.
“The Ochoa Park seems to have a lot of vandalism and it wasn’t on there,” noted Casey.
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.
“This particular project was big,” said Chief Collins, “and we had to scale it down for the amount of money that we thought we could get and thought we’d come back to the table at the second half of the ARPA spending plan.”
He said cameras could be equipped in Ochoa Park but it needs electrical service and lighting for the cameras to be feasible.
City Manager Alex Terrazas said the resolution didn’t include allocations for installation and materials so the city is requesting an extra $30,000.
Vice Mayor Bret Silveira noted that the council made its decision about spending ARPA funds before the uptick of vandalism at Ochoa Park.
“Basically if we had have known that Ochoa Park was having so much vandalism before we started this ARPA spending process, I would like to think we would have had it in there,” said Silveira.
Terrazas said the city will soon be initiating the design work for the completion of Ochoa Park “so really the time to integrate the deployment of those cameras and kind of plan where they are going to be with the infrastructure that goes along with it is during design.”
Ceres resident John Warren said he noted the contract has the city leasing the cameras and said “five years from now we have nothing.” He suggested purchasing them and having city IT staff overseeing them,
Mayor Lopez said a benefit to leasing cameras comes if there is an upgrade within the next few years.
Police Chief Rick Collins said the company, EPIC iO Technologies, Inc., would do the upkeep on the cameras and system but police and city staff would monitor the images.
Silveira said leasing is less expensive than buying cameras and technology could make the camera obsolete within five years. Repairs and maintenance are also covered under the lease.
During the roll call, Lopez said he didn’t feel comfortable voting on it and wanted to table it. The two present members went along with it.