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West Ceres study costs increase
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Change orders have not been viewed favorably lately by the Ceres City Council. They always increase the costs of contracts for services and in a number of recent cases they've been shocking.

But members were in a better mood Monday, Oct. 13 when discussing the contract with Wood Rodgers for planning the Ceres West Specific Plan.

In December the city contracted with Wood Rodgers to perform the planning work, which will ultimately be paid by the developers and property owners. Wood Rodgers sought to change the scope of the work to raise the original contract of $825,050 by another $70,468.

The contract is being funded by property owners G3 Enterprises, Rutland Properties and B.S. Boyle Jr. Limited Partnership.

"When we go through RFP processes," said Ceres Vice Mayor Chris Vierra, "I get very uncomfortable when we come back with large significant change orders ... because it tells me either somebody low-balled their proposal or we weren't adequately prepared. When we're requesting $70,000 for additional work, either the consultant is throwing the city under the bus or we didn't really know what we were getting into when we got started."

Vierra said he hoped that the contractor wasn't trying to take advantage of the property owners by "padding numbers."

Dave Romano, representing Ceres West, said his group is "comfortable" with the change order. He explained the progress of the study.

"We've been at the process for a year," said Romano. "The consultant now knows the city very well. They know us very well. They know the process very well. They've had a number of stakeholder meetings. They've prepared an Opportunities and Constraints analysis. So our expectation from this point forward they've brought to us what they expect to be extra costs, what they expect to be extra meetings."

He explained things could come up to further add to the cost of the contract.

Mayor Anthony Cannella filled in Sandy Vance of Wood Rodgers of the council's tiring of contracts being increased after approval.

"We're at the point where we're tired of dealing with them and so various consultants get in our cross-hairs and depending how we feel that night some of them aren't treated really nicely but we're in a good mood (tonight)."

Vance said he doesn't foresee any additional costs to the costs of professional planning. To that Cannella issued this warning: "Move at your own risk on any additional work done without approval."

The Ceres West Study was triggered by property owners' plans to annex land on the west side to Ceres city limits. The area being considered is between Whitmore Avenue and Service Road, bounded by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on the east and Ustick Road on the west. The study is needed because the city has a policy that annexations will only be considered when the city has approved an areawide master plan that looks at land use, circulation, housing, infrastructure and public facilities and services.