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Redevelopment agency goes on
Ceres will continue to have a redevelopment agency but it won't have as much revenue as before.

On Monday the Ceres City Council enacted an emergency ordinance to participate in a state plan that allows the Ceres Redevelopment Agency to continue. The end result is that the state takes more funds from the agency but an estimated $800,000 would be available annually to be spent locally on redevelopment projects.

Legislation enacted June 30 by the state of California officially dissolved redevelopment agencies in California as of Oct. 1. However, follow-up legislation in AB 26 and AB27 allows redevelopment agencies to continue as an "alternative voluntary redevelopment program" and paying the state an exorbitant fee. In Ceres' case, the city would have to pay the state $1.74 million for the first year and $409,546 each year after that.

"Some money is better than no money at all," stated Mayor Chris Vierra, who in previous meetings called the state plan extortion.

The League of California Cities, the California Redevelopment Agency and the cities of Union City and San Jose have all filed lawsuits against the state saying their action is unconstitutional. The California State Supreme Court could rule on the matter by Aug. 15.

Redevelopment & Economic Development Manager Bryan Briggs said the city could "potentially save up enough tax increment to do a large project every couple of years." He also said the CRA could issue bonds for a larger project and not do smaller projects.

The council is considering three projects as priority. The most pressing is the Barbour's sewer pump station and sewer line force main conversion project. The project, estimated to cost $472,750. The current infrastructure is considered insufficient and must be corrected for the future business development along Mitchell Road. The city was advised to convert the lift station to a pump station and converting an existing 12-inch sewer line to a force main. The project would boost wastewater disposal capacity and correct an existing "bottleneck" in the sewer system.

The project would disrupt traffic for southbound Mitchell Road

The city is also looking at assisting with the development of the Victorian Village, a proposed 30-unit senior apartment complex next to the Clinton Whitmore Mansion. The city also are hoping to use redevelopment funds to buy leftover property from Caltrans as part of the Whitmore /99 interchange. The city wants to rezone and eliminate the Lazy Wheels Mobilehome Park to package with adjacent vacant parcels opposite Ceres High School to be developed for freeway commercial uses to would expand Ceres' tax base.

Without the urgency ordinance, the city would have lost all of its future revenues and assets to the financially strapped state.

Vierra said RDA is important because it allows cities like Ceres to be able to accomplish major projects. Besides the Ceres Community Center, Ceres was able to afford improvements to the George Costa Baseball Complex in Smyrna Park.

By law, 20 percent of all redevelopment expenditures must be used for affordable housing.