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New year to see new projects completed
New soccer field, schools, businesses
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Workers braved frigid temperatures Friday as they completed sidewalk work in front of the construction site for a new school on Mitchell Road near the Ceres Post Office. The Stanislaus County Office of Education is ordering it. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

A new elementary school, a new soccer field for Ceres River Bluff Regional Park, new Dollar General store and possibly the first building project in downtown in years are expected in the new year, which starts three weeks from today.

Last month Community Development Director Tom Westbrook with the city of Ceres announced that the city had received an application for the construction of a new two-story, 8,000-square-foot office building at the corner of Sixth and Park streets. Westbrook commented that the design of the building is "pretty swift" and said he was excited for what it might do in downtown, which has suffered from decades of neglect and investment.

"I think it's going to be a great addition to downtown," said Westbrook. "I think that just seeing that new construction downtown hopefully generates some interest in folks looking to ... say hey there's some new construction, I'm going to paint my building, I'm going to clean up a little bit, or now I'm interested in this façade program."

The project does not have an identified user, said Westbrook, who expects that the owner would occupy some space and lease out the rest.

Westbrook said the project will likely go before the Ceres Planning Commission in January.

"We're excited to get that kind of new construction within our downtown area," said Westbrook.

The last project seen in downtown was construction of the Turlock Irrigation District office at 2944 Third Street. The office cost $1 million and opened in October 2009.

New soccer field
This spring the city will start building a new soccer field at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park on Hatch Road.

Six soccer fields were originally included in the early design of the park. Only five were developed. A sixth field will mean Ceres can host larger state cup tournaments.

Deputy City Manager/City Engineer Toby Wells said the city hopes to seed the field so that it will be available for soccer play in the fall.

"That one's a stretch but we're trying like crazy to get there," said Wells.

New building projects
Also in 2014, Dollar General will be moving ahead with plans to build a new store on Whitmore Avenue west of Morgan Road. Specifically, the city gave approval for a new 9,100-square-foot store at the southeast corner of Whitmore and Malik avenues.

Senior Planner Tom Westbrook said the store will not be allowed to look as lackluster as the metal warehouse structure which Dollar General erected in Waterford last year.

"It will be far superior aesthetically," said Westbrook. "It (the proposed building) doesn't look anything like that building. It has stucco and columns and stone veneer. The building size is about the same (as Waterford) but that's about it for comparisons.

The Stanislaus County Office of Education is expected to complete and open its new $6 million alternative school campus under construction next to the Ceres Post Office. Construction is expected to take place for most of the year with completion in the fall of 2014 and students being introduced to the campus by December.

The new school will help SCOE provide education "services to students who don't make it in regular school," said Don Gatti, SCOE's assistant superintendent for Business.

The new campus will be designed for approximately 180 junior and senior high school students who are expelled from regular classes, mostly from the Ceres, Hughson and Keyes area. The new campus will replace the existing alternative education school operated in rented property at the former Memorial Hospital Ceres campus.

Lasiter said the school will be sized for 10 classrooms.

A new Cruisers store and Prime Shine Car Wash will be constructed on the corner of Whitmore Avenue and Mitchell Road to replace Barbour's which was razed last month.

Boyett Petroleum Company expects the 7,200-square-foot store to open within six months.

City projects include bike paths
The new year will see construction projects to expand the city's bike and pedestrian paths. Last month the city council approved two contracts that will extend the Hatch Road bicycle bath to Whitmore Avenue and spend nearly $800,000 in grant funds.

Ross F. Carroll, Inc., was given a $369,627 contract to extend the bike path along the east side of TID Main Canal between Hatch Road and Fowler Road near Ceres Fire Station #4. The contract calls for paving, striping, fencing and some landscaping.

The firm was also awarded a second contract - not to exceed $424,616 - to continue the bike path along the same canal southward to Whitmore Avenue.

The completion of the bike path will allow bicyclists and pedestrian to travel all the way from Whitmore Avenue east of Mitchell Road all the way to Richland Avenue at Hatch Road without the fear of conflicting with cars and trucks.

The project will include some narrowing of Fowler Road, said Wells, to make it "very much clear" to drivers that there is a bike path bisecting the roadway.

Wells said the city intends to take the bike path as far south as Rhode Road. The goal is to run the bike path eastward toward Hughson as far as the city limits at Faith Home Road. Wells said there is a countywide bike plan that calls for a bike path all the way to Hughson but there are no county funds to build it.

The city is also anticipating construction of a $1.18 million replacement of the sewer line in Service Road from Central Avenue to Moffet Road, to help with flows.

The contract with Mozingo Construction, Inc., of Oakdale calls for the replacement of an existing 18-inch sewer trunk line with a 42-inch line to relieve "surcharging" in the lateral sewer lines on Collins Road and Moffet Road. Wells said sewer pipes are designed to flow at half full and any flow above this capacity could backup sewage up to the level of street manholes and affect toilets and sinks from flushing properly.

Ceres residents can also look forward to finally seeing some landscape improvements to the Whitmore Interchange. Dirt, weeds and trash have marred the Whitmore Interchange since its completion and dedication in 2011. But a $790,161 contract awarded recently will soon rid freeway blight of a city embarrassment as city officials aim to make Ceres more attractive to new business and industry.

The state completed the freeway interchange two years ago but did not allocate the funding to install the landscaping on both the west and east sides of the new overpass. The city won approval to spend state transportation funds on the project.

The landscaping will include irrigation systems, plantings, hydro-seeding, decorative rock and mulch, decomposed granite and colored stamped concrete.

The city is also planning for some curb, gutter and sidewalk installations in the area east of Central Avenue and north of Whitmore Avenue.

Beaver Elementary
Located on the west side of Central Avenue just north of Grayson Road, Patricia K. Beaver Elementary School will open its doors next fall. Ceres Unified School District's newest campus will house more than 800 students and employ 60 personnel once completed.

At a cost of $22.7 million, Beaver will serve either K-3 or K-4 students during its first year of existence in 2014-15. With approval from the Ceres School Board, the magnet school will expand to a K-8 campus.Beaver Elementary School.

Ceres Unified School District officials announced that Libby Beaver, daughter of the late Mrs. Beaver, who died in 2001 after battling cancer, will serve as the new principal of the school.

Amy Peterman, who is the eldest daughter of Patricia Beaver, is principal of Central Valley High School.

PG&E project to be completed
While work on the PG&E gas line replacement is completed, the patch-up of the asphalt scarred in the process will be completed this year.

Deputy City Manager/City Engineer Toby Wells said weather could interfere with the paving necessary to make Whitmore Avenue smooth again. The city had resurfaced Whitmore Avenue to a nearly pristine condition in 2011 with a $807,395 contract before PG&E said it needed to cut into it. Council members groaned but were reassured in March that the patch should be undetectable to motorists.

Doing the final paving schedule will be tricky since conditions must be dry as well as temperatures above 50 degrees. Wells said that conditions must be that a temperature of 50 degrees is sustained for hours to do measurable asphalt laying.

"We're working with them to figure out when that's going to happen," Wells told the Ceres City Council. "They've buttoned up all their trenches but it's not in the final condition. There is still a lane of repaving that they have got to do for us... it may happen like spring break, scheduled when school's out, to get that final paving."