The Ceres City Council decided on Monday that it will go through the process established in 2005 in considering Councilman Channce Condit’s 11th hour request to rename Eastgate Park after the late Councilman Guillermo Ochoa.
The city awarded the contract to begin work on Eastgate and Lions parks in mid-April. Since that time construction has started and the concrete sign for the park has been completed. Condit didn’t bring up the idea of memorializing Ochoa with the naming of Ceres’ new eastside park until Sept. 14.
The policy of naming parks involves formation of an ad hoc committee and fielding suggestions of names from the public.
The request presents a logical dilemma for city staff. City Manager Tom Westbrook told the council that the city will have to reach out to the manufacturer of the sign – which weighs several thousand pounds and cost $12,786 – to see if it can be modified if the city wants to rename the park but he said it is an option. He said the sign has already been delivered and is set to be installed.
Condit said he spoke to a manufacturer of signs on his own and said recasting could take place at about $100 per letter, or $2,000.
Condit said Ochoa was “a fine example for our city – he represented the absolute best of what Ceres has to offer.”
Councilman Bret Durossette, who served alongside Ochoa, said he could not think of a more fitting way to honor Ochoa by renaming the park after him.
“There’s a process that has to take place. I think we need to go through that process.”Councilman Bret Durossette
“There’s a process that has to take place,” said Durossette. “I think we need to go through that process.”
Durossette said he remembered months before his death how Ochoa addressed the council as an ex-councilman talked about the importance of the city finishing the park for residents living in Eastgate.
Vice Mayor Linda Ryno agreed that the process needs to be followed but said “it would only be fair to all of the citizens of Ceres” to consider name options, not just consider a “name because of a letter writing campaign because that doesn’t allow all the community to be involved.”
About 85 emails supporting Ochoa’s name on the park have been received by the city since Condit brought up the idea.
Councilman Kline said he wants to go through the process even though the council
would “most likely” choose Ochoa’s name.
Lisa Mantarro Moore, a former member of the Ceres City Council, commented that she wanted to see the council “fast-track and expedite the actual process that we created back in 2005.”
Ceres resident Gene Yeakley voiced his desire to see the park named in some way to honor veterans with military insignias of the branches featured in the park. Ryno suggest him to suggest a name to be considered by the city.
Talk about changing the park name resulted in a short discussion about what to do with the sign as the contractor wraps up his work this week. The council said it’s okay with pouring the concrete pad for the sign while not installing it. City Engineer Daniel Padilla said the sign could be stored at the city corporation yard until it has been decided what can be done with it.
Ochoa, 54, died at his Eastgate home in 2015. He was appointed to the Ceres City Council in 2005 and served until 2011 when he was defeated by Mike Kline. Ochoa lived in Ceres from 1972 to 1982 and then moved back in 1998 and had lived in Ceres since. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Economics from St. Mary's College. His career included serving as a Human Resources manager for several large corporations including Campbell Soup, Chef America, Diamond Walnut Growers, Yellow Roadway Corporation and ConAgra Foods. He was self-employed as co-owner/operator of Garcia’s Market in Empire.
Ochoa was a member of the Hispanic Leadership Council.