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Mayor sounds optimistic tone in ‘State of the City’ address
• Crowd of 110 turns out to hear speech
Lopez state of city 2023
Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez delivered a 45-minute “State of the City” address Thursday evening at the Ceres Community Center. About 110 attended. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier photo

Mayor Javier Lopez delivered his “State of the City” address before a crowd of about 110 persons Thursday evening, projecting confidence in the direction of Ceres’ future.

“Welcome once again as we embrace a new era of changes that are forever building and uplifting the City of Ceres,” the mayor started out. “Together, we will continue to build and uplift our community to new heights.”

Lopez said that “Only by coming together as a community and family can we achieve our success as a whole, rather than individuals. Let us focus on solving problems before they arise rather than dwelling on them without solutions.

“As your mayor, I will lead and guide you through the challenges and unforeseen events that we will encounter. We are a fighting force against all that stands in the way of our goals. As I stand beside you, I will lead and guide this city beyond the mountains. Ultimately, we will conquer so have no fear.”

Lopez spent some time reflecting on changes to city staff in the past two years, including the hiring of Fallon Martin as City Clerk, Kevin Waugh as Director of Engineering, Delilah Vasquez as Human Resources manager and Jon Frederick as Information Technology Manager to replace Robert Ball, who died in May 2022. In May 2022, the council approved a contract to officially appoint Alex Terrazas as city manager.

Text of speech

The following is a text of the remainder of the mayor’s speech, edited for available space:

“Budget talks came and went without a hitch as we approved the annual budget for 2022-23. As a council, we made many decisions this year. For example, we approved the master property tax revenue agreement with the county. We funded code enforcement to increase staff and purchase the necessary equipment. We authorized funding for Ochoa Park in District 3. We also accepted and were awarded the California Local Grant to improve Smyrna Park. We funded the Military Banner Program and opened Lower River Bluff, which had experienced fires and had been closed since the pandemic.

“The decisions made by those at the top have a profound effect on the organizations they lead. It is the culture that you create that ultimately determines the outcome, and this responsibility weighs heavily on those in leadership roles. As the mayor of the city, it’s my honor to announce the leadership team of the city and who run the day-to-day operations and ensures this very city thrives. Without a doubt, many of you who work for the city of Ceres deserve recognition, and I see you.

“The city successfully negotiated and approved ARPA funds for part-time employees who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Open enrollment for all city employees was completed with no increase in benefits, resulting in cost savings.

“A new Employee Voluntary Benefit Plan was implemented at a reduced cost for employees. Forms were updated in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, the Human Resources Department remained current with the frequent changes in Cal/OSHA COVID-19 guidelines, investigations, notifications, and other reporting requirements.

“The Wildfire Smoke Program was established in accordance with California Code of Regulation Title 8. The Human Resources Department completed assessment testing for police command staff to fill sergeant, lieutenant, and captain positions. Overall, the department successfully hired 67 new employees, including conducting recruitment, onboarding, and processing benefits. It was an important goal to fill these positions, and I am proud of the department’s accomplishment.

“In August 2021, the city of Ceres entered into a contract for service with the Modesto Fire Department, which would provide fire protection services to the citizens of Ceres. By entering into this agreement, the city of Ceres joined the city of Oakdale and the Oakdale Fire Protection District, which were already in an agreement with the Modesto Fire Department. In February of 2022, the city of Turlock and Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District entered into an agreement with the Modesto Fire Department, and this last September the Salida Fire Protection District also entered into a fire agreement. The Modesto Fire Department and its regional partners, known as MST, now serve six of the nine cities in Stanislaus County and four fire districts, which include several unincorporated communities covering over 650 square miles.

“By entering into this agreement, the city of Ceres has increased the level of service to its citizens. Engine 15, which is located in downtown Ceres, now has a full-time firefighter paramedic assigned to the engine company. In 2022, the Ceres City Council approved the purchase of advanced life support equipment on all Ceres fire apparatus, which means if a firefighter paramedic is working on the apparatus, they will be able to provide advanced life support services to the citizens of Ceres. In addition, the city has increased its daily staffing of firefighters as a result of the contract. The ladder truck, which is located at Station 18 on Fowler Road, is now staffed with a fourth firefighter, greatly improving their capabilities to provide emergency services. The city also replaced a rescue boat in 2022 that had been out of service for several years. This rescue boat will be utilized for water rescues in the Tuolumne River or in the case of flooding.

“Ceres Fire Station 17 on Service Road continues to serve as the home of the MST Training Division. After a very successful initial three years of the regional training partnership, in 2022, the City of Ceres renewed an agreement with the City of Turlock, the City of Modesto, and Stanislaus Consolidated for another five years. In 2022, the Training Division conducted two 14-week new-recruit fire academies, which trained 55 new firefighters in all aspects of all-risk fire and emergency services. The Training Division ensures that our firefighters are well-trained to provide the highest level of service to our citizens and is another example of how regionalizing services makes sense to better serve our community.

“Law enforcement across the country has faced unforeseen challenges and changes but public safety is not just a talking point. It is the very reason why it’s possible to live in a thriving city, to lay in bed at night, walk your dog in the morning, or enjoy a jog at River Bluff (Park). For the men and women who put on the uniform every day and for those who have had an opportunity to meet and greet our officers, whether it be in daily interactions or at some of the community events, the culture of family is why many have personally shared that Ceres PD is one of the best in our county. There is an opportunity to continue bridging that gap.

“In the past year, the Ceres Police Department has made significant strides to enhance their operations and engagement with the community. The Traffic Division’s grant for DUI and strategic traffic enforcement has already led to 100 impaired drivers being taken off the streets of Ceres. The promotion of four sergeants, three lieutenants, and one captain, as well as the hiring of four police officers and three public safety dispatchers, will ensure the department continues to operate smoothly and efficiently. Additionally, the addition of a full-time officer and two part-time personnel to the Code Enforcement Unit has helped to address community concerns related to code enforcement.

“The department’s efforts have yielded positive results, including a reduction in fatal traffic collisions and homicides. The completion of the police report dictation program has increased efficiency and reduced the time officers spend typing reports, allowing them to focus on more critical tasks. The city’s security camera project is also in its final stages of installation, providing an added layer of security that will benefit both the police department and the community. The department’s commitment to community engagement is shown by their efforts during the holiday season and their continued support of the Special Olympics, for which they were recognized as the fundraising leader in Northern 9 California for the second consecutive year. Overall, the Ceres Police Department has demonstrated a commitment to excellence and the safety of their community.

“The city can take advantage of ever-evolving technology, such as license plate reader (also known as LPR) cameras. This is not only a priority of mine, but with the support from everyone in this room, we can improve productivity if implemented correctly with proper training. These innovations are better serving our community with tools and information.

“As promised, continued training and team-building workshops are at the core of the department’s leadership, ensuring they are equipped, prepared, and ready to engage with the public. “Community is at the heart of this department, and annual events such as “National Night Out” and “Coffee with a Cop” define the outreach the department seeks to engage with the community. Initiatives such as “Beards for Kids” toy drive and delivery have a significant impact on many families.

“Ceres is working to build and sustain our neighborhoods through development, offering services, and new opportunities to our residents and businesses. Our goal is to lead new and innovative programs not only in our city but throughout our county, through community development organizations partnering with grassroots organizations and many neighborhood stakeholders.

“Our partners include Workforce Development, Stanislaus Equity Partners, Opportunity Stanislaus, Valley Sierra’s Small Business Development Center, Go-Biz, the Ceres Chamber of Commerce and the Central valley Hispanic chamber of commerce. We provide events such as Bridging the Gap, workshops, employee training and recruitment, community job fairs, webinars, business incentives, grant opportunities, ribbon cuttings, and grand openings.

“The Community Development Department is made up of the Planning, Building, Housing, and Economic Development Divisions. As a whole, the department processes all new land use applications within the city. It interprets and updates zoning codes, processes, and prepares projects for consideration by the Planning Commission and City Council, and implements General and Master Plans.

“All building permits, plan checks, and inspections are coordinated by the department. In 2022, the department processed over 1,000 building permits, benefiting from the development and opening of many commercial, industrial, and residential projects.

“Through the various programs, events, and partnerships we have established, along with the hard work of the Community Development Department, Ceres is dedicated to fostering economic growth and development, improving the quality of life for our residents, and creating a brighter future for our city.


“During calendar year 2022, the Engineering Services Department oversaw and completed approximately $5.2 million worth of infrastructure improvements. As part of the Morgan Road Safe Routes to School Project, the roadway was widened and improvements were made to pedestrian sidewalks, refuge islands, striping, and lighting from Whitmore Avenue to Service Road.

“This project was funded with $3.4 million supplemented using county and state grants derived from the Local Measure L and SB1 funding sources. The Traffic Signal Project at Morgan Road and Service Road was implemented to improve traffic safety at this intersection. For the Whitmore Storm Lift Station Project, an existing lift station structure was reinforced with a heavy traffic-rated access hatch to improve traffic safety. For the Morrow Village Sidewalk Infrastructure Project, the city of Ceres received funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to provide a much-needed ADA-compliant pedestrian sidewalk, curb, and gutter along Garrison Road, in front of Carroll Fowler Elementary School.

“The School Traffic Safety Improvements Project included the installation of rapid flashing beacons at crosswalk locations for Virginia Parks Elementary, Carroll Fowler Elementary and Walter White Elementary. As part of the River Bluff water tank project, the city worked with its valued consultants (Blackwater Engineering and Inferrera Construction Management Group, Inc.) to provide a much-needed surface water reservoir tank, integrated into the city’s water supply system to improve city water quality. Finally, the ITS Signal Synchronization Phase III & IV Project provided city-wide transportation communication to the city’s traffic operation center and allowed synchronization of existing traffic signals.

Public Works

“In 2022, the city of Ceres made significant accomplishments in various departments. The Parks Department had a grand opening at Lower River Bluff, featuring a walk path, picnic areas, a boat launch, and revegetation. In the Water Division, the city added a 3 million gallon water tank at the River Bluff Water Reservoir to deliver surface water, and Well 42 was brought online and is now delivering water into the city loop system. Additionally, Well 16 now has Granular Activated Carbon vessels for water treatment.

“The Water Division produced approximately 2.2 million gallons of water and completed over 8,000 drinking water samples and over 2,700 service requests. The Streets Division completed over 300 service requests, including 21,000 sweeper miles and the collection nearly 500 tons. The Sewer Division completed 60 service requests and cleaned 48.26 miles of sewer main line and 5.2 miles of CTV.

The Stormwater Division completed a Trash Assessment and is currently working on a Storm Master Plan. The Facilities Division completed over 2,700 service requests, and the Fleet Division completed 735 service requests. These accomplishments show that the City of Ceres is committed to improving the quality of life for its residents and making the city a better place to live.


“Declining groundwater levels and increasingly stringent water quality regulations mean that our current reliance on groundwater supply alone is not sustainable as a sole source of drinking water for our local residents and businesses in the future. After decades of planning to satisfy the future water supply needs of this city and surrounding communities, I am excited to share with you today that those efforts are about to be realized with the completion of the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA) surface water supply project.

“In 2015, the leaders of this great city and our city of Turlock partner came together to form a Joint Powers Authority in partnership with the Turlock Irrigation District to solve this potential water shortage problem. With that commitment, in 2016, the SRWA immediately got to work on the regional surface water supply project.

“In 2020, the SRWA awarded a contract to design and construct the project. I am happy to announce that the project is progressing very well and, as of this date is on schedule and under budget. With about six months to go, this project will provide our city with up to five million gallons per day of much-needed surface water that will have an immediate positive impact on our ability to supply the community with safe, reliable, potable drinking water.

“At an estimated cost of $230 million, the project is being funded through a combination of water utility revenue, state grants, and a low-interest loan funded through the State Water Resources Control Board. Our cost is roughly one-third of the total based on the quantity of water delivered. By securing a total of $38.5 million in grant funding and $17.5 million from Ceres and Turlock cash reserves, we were able to limit the amount of borrowed money to $186 million, at a 1.2% interest rate that will save more than $100 million over the 30-year life of the loan.

“Water utility rates were adjusted in 2018 in anticipation of generating revenue to fund our portion of the project’s development and ongoing operational and administrative costs. Through a recently approved Operations Agreement, the City of Turlock will provide certified water treatment operators and qualified maintenance and administrative staff.

“Our future looks bright with a resilient water supply that will drive economic development, protect our precious groundwater resource, and enhance the environment.

Fiscal Year 2022/2023

“This is our current financial position: Our beginning balance was $6.86 million, our projected revenues sit at $27.1 million along with our projected expenses at $27.2 million.

“In turn our projected fund balance is $6.77 million. That places our reserves at 24.8%.

“The Finance Department implemented Invoice Cloud, a new pay-by-phone, email or text, mobile platform for utility bills.

“The annual audit received an unqualified opinion from the independent auditors, meaning that a company’s financial statements are fairly and appropriately presented. And the department also began the utility billing system conversion process.

“In summary, the Finance Department has been proactive in improving our financial management by implementing innovative payment options, receiving a positive audit report, and making strides towards improving our utility billing system.

“As we move forward into fiscal year 2022-23, we will continue to monitor our financial position, revenues, and expenses to ensure we are meeting our goals and maintaining our reserves. We remain committed to making sound financial decisions that benefit our community and improve the quality of life for our residents.

Parks and Recreation

“At the heart of Ceres Recreation Office are the community and its recreation programs. Our staff understands the vital role that recreation plays in the community, and they work tirelessly year-round to expand, improve, and grow these programs. We were honored to participate in several successful events throughout the year, including “Trunk or Treat,” the Christmas Festival and Parade, and a new Easter event. These events collectively brought in over 60 vendors, 10,000 attendees, and several other festivities.

“Lately, the Community Center has become the place to be, as the Recreation Department has been extremely busy with an increase in demand for rental spaces, classes, and other programs. We also brought back the successful fall Hoopsters basketball program and reopened the newly rebranded “Golden Years Senior Lounge” and senior programs, providing even more opportunities for our community to engage and thrive.


“Our traditions are as important as our future generations. This very community has grown from grassroots, with generations of existing families to new families that call Ceres their home. Community brings everyone closer together. The Ceres Unified Schools District, which leads as a model for other districts throughout California, understands its role and has made it a mission to build an even better relationship with the Ceres community.

“With our joint 2+2+2 committee meetings, the vice mayor and I participate in, we have made sure to continue a collaborative relationship along with staff, which has resulted in community events such as the ‘Crosstown Showdown. After a long period, the parade is back for our students and our future. Ceres High took the trophy home this year and congratulations on behalf of the city of Ceres.

“Over the last two years, I have visited many students in the classroom, often joined by the fire and police department. The awards ceremony for ‘Every Student Succeeding,’ an emotional event this year. Other highlights included the Recycling Poster Contest and Ceres Adult School Job Fair. I attended a rally at Central Valley High School where a very successful singer and former student of Central Valley High, Pedro, of the group Marka MP, came back to show his support. At Ceres high, I spoke to a group of students in Mr. Payne’s class. That was a personal and inspiring moment to say the least.

“Concerts in the Park have grown to become even more entertaining as Parks and Recreation worked on making sure the event ran smoothly, and to all that participated, I thank you.

“ ‘Love Ceres’ was another successful community event. The council approved a sponsorship to the event, which really showed how much our city loves and cherishes everything about it. We came out in full force.

“The Ceres Street Faire had returned, one of many vital community traditions hosted by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce.

“The Cinco de Mayo Parade, the largest in the Central Valley, organized by South Modesto Business United, in which many elected officials participate, was another event that many of our community members look forward to every year. It has been a goal to begin the parade on the Ceres side of Crows Landing, and with the relationship between the city of Ceres, South Modesto Business United, Stanislaus County, the Sheriff’s Department, and the city of Modesto, we will enjoy this event every year together.

“The Veteran and Active Military Banner Program and event was a success. If you have not had an opportunity to walk downtown Ceres, please take the time and admire the men and women who stand for our country. It is worth it. As I took the opportunity to walk downtown myself, looking up at former students such as Dillon Kong, coaches such as Alexis Lopez and fallen family members such as Pedro Maldonado II, I smile and thank you to the City Council for supporting me in my referral as it is one of many positive changes that the city needed. To the former committee and its members as well as Joey Chavez, thank you for organizing and implementing this program. I expect to see more applicants in the future as we expand this project to hatch road in the new development.

“We approved the Ceres Youth Baseball contract for the use of Costa Fields Complex. A place I believe we need to continue to invest in for its vital role in our community and our youth programs.

Mayor’s Top Priorities for 2023

“The following are a list of my priorities:


• Roads, bridges and freeway retaining walls;

• Sidewalks for underserved communities in our city and improving existing pathways;

• Clean and affordable water;

• Wastewater treatment;

• Begin a feasibility study on how to rebuild City Hall Public Safety and Crime;

• Supporting Police and Fire;

• Equipment and technology;

• Fire life safety;

• Continued public services and engagement;

• Continued community events;

Technologies and Services;

• Online access and information improvements;

• Improvement of our citywide apps;

• Communication improvements and investment;

• Customer service advancements;

• IT department upgrades;

• City-wide data network;

 • Cyber security;

Building and Planning

• Supporting business in an effort to streamline current projects to advance;

• Supporting future projects for the city of Ceres;

Business and Economic Development

• Supporting our local business and funding programs such as the RAD program and TOT;

• Continue efforts with Opportunity Stanislaus and Retail Coach in scouting for companies to come to Ceres;

• Increase revenue by holding workshops;

• Expanding food truck permits;

• Establish a fee structure that generates and expands revenue for the city while supporting the growth of the cannabis industry.

Creating Jobs for the Future

• Working with large and small companies to bring more jobs to Ceres.

Housing Developments

• Supporting the ever-changing growth and future housing development so we can meet our requirements, all while providing a great place to live.

 “As I conclude, I would like to express my gratitude for being selected the chair to the Stanislaus Council of Government. It is an honor to serve in this position and I am excited to work with other leaders to drive progress in our region. I am proud to reflect on the work we have accomplished in Ceres.

“Two of our top priorities for 2022 are the ACE Train station and the Diverging Diamond interchange, which will bring significant benefits to our community. As mayor, my focus will be on improving our infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and sidewalks, as well as ensuring clean and affordable water and effective wastewater treatment.

“I am committed to public safety and crime prevention, supporting our police and fire departments and investing in equipment, technology, and fire life safety. Additionally, we will continue to prioritize community events and youth programs and support local businesses to bring more jobs and economic growth to Ceres.”

State of the City crowd 2023 Ceres
The State of the City Address drew a crowd that consisted of mostly government and city employees. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier photo