The Ceres City Council last week approved the spending of federal ARPA funds to complete Ochoa Park in the Eastgate area.
The park was dedicated in 2021 but still barren with no grass and amenities other than a children’s playground, volleyball pit and sidewalks.
Based on input from the community, the city will be spending $2.3 million to install picnic tables, shade structures, benches, a couple of basketball half courts, Pickle ball courts, a 16-foot by 16-foot shade structure with barbecue grills, drinking fountain, doggie-pot waste station and trash receptacles. Grass, shrubs and trees will also be added with a full irrigation system installed.
City Engineer Kevin Waugh predicted that Ochoa Park will be the pride of the city once finished by the summer of 2024.
“Basically we took everything that we could from our surveys and our public workshops and created a design that needs additional walkway from the corner to the northwest as well as adding the Pickle Ball and basketball courts,” said Waugh.
Ceres resident John Warren didn’t feel the city should install barbecue pits at $5,000 apiece, citing how those in city parks “are some of the filthiest things I’ve ever seen in my life and should be removed and not there at all.” He also questioned why the city needs to spend $8,500 on a drinking fountain, saying most people bring their own bottles of water.
“Maybe spend the money on something else,” suggested Warren, who expressed concern about the expenses.
Vice Mayor Bret Silveira said costs are unavoidable and that drinking fountains are essential. He said O’Dell Engineering has always provided the best designs at the most cost-effective projects.
“This will probably the most beautiful park in Stanislaus County once it’s built,” predicted Silveira.
Most of the funding for the $2.3 million in Ochoa Park improvements will come from the city’s share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds passed by Congress in March 2021. The funds must be committed by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.
The council agreed to spend $1.05 million from the first installment of ARPA funds, of which $400,000 was allocated to Ochoa Park, and taking the $650,000 initially allocated to Lions Park. The council also Ok’d the use of $1,088,100 from the second ARPA allocation of $5.8 million. Another funding source is $172,000 in neighborhood park development fees.
Councilman James Casey said the park “concept is good and we need that park for our kids but we’re taking $600,000 from Lions Park and nothing has happened to it.” He then cast the lone “no” vote against the allocation. The motion passed with the support of Mayor Javier Lopez, Silveira and councilmembers Daniel Martinez and Rosalinda Vierra.
Silveira commented that development of Ochoa Park is long overdue and considers it a top priority before his term is up.
“This might be the best day I’ve seen since my time on the council so thank you everybody for supporting this,” said Silveira.