Steve Hallam, hired by the city of Ceres five years ago to attract new businesses and redevelop sections of town, received a one-year extension to his contract during Monday evening’s Ceres City Council meeting.
Hallam works part-time as the city’s Redevelopment and Economic Development director and has been credited with attracting new businesses to Ceres, including Ross Dress for Less when Staples abandoned its building on Hatch Road. Ceres City Manager Toby Wells said Hallam has also assisted other businesses in setting up shop without much fanfare.
Only one member of the council, Channce Condit, voted against Hallam’s one-year contract extension after focusing on Hallam’s pay.
As a professional consultant Hallam is paid $85 per hour. Finance Director Suzanne Dean told Condit that some engineers hired for inspections earn more per hour. The entire annual contract is not to exceed $85,000 – all which is funded by the dissolved redevelopment agency. Last year the contract came to $55,362 with $64,000 as an average over the past four years.
When Ceres resident John Warren suggested that “it seems like there’s more businesses leaving our community than there are businesses coming into the community,” Mayor Chris Vierra offered that some which are leaving don’t generate much in sales tax revenue. Vierra noted that Kingspan Insulated Panels is expanding on Morgan Road with the creation of about 75 jobs.
Councilman Mike Kline said the city doesn’t have a lot of say when large businesses like Kmart or Rancho San Miguel decide to close stores.
“Are we really receiving the most that we can for the investment that we’re putting out?” queried Warren. “When you look at … the salary, that’s way up there for our city.”
Mayor Vierra said the city wants to get to a full-time economic development manager but said it’s been a challenge getting there with the budget. Wells said it’s his hope to get to a full-time position next budget year.
Vice Mayor Linda Ryno said that given there is no money for a full-time position, she favored extending Hallam’s contract. Ryno opined that Hallam does an excellent job and does more than full-time directors she has studied in the past.
Councilman Bret Durossette said Hallam is needed as the city stands poised to develop the Southgate area at Mitchell and Service roads. He also said his “hat goes off” to Hallam for the new look of downtown with new businesses.
When the contract extension came to a vote, Vierra, Ryno, Durossette and Kline voted in favor of the contract extension and Condit voted against it.
Before coming to Ceres, Hallam was city manager of Oakdale and served as its Community Development Director from October 2001 to November 2006 when he was promoted to city manager. In Oakdale, Hallam cited his close involvement and participation in the successful attraction of Sconza Candy Company to fill the former Hershey’s Chocolate facility vacated in 2006 when that company relocated their confection production to Mexico.