Ceres council set to hire firm for downtown plan

CERES -- The City Council will con-sider hiring a firm to develop a plan for the downtown revitalization effort at its Monday night meeting.

If approved, Design, Community & Environment of Berkeley will earn $350,000 for about a year of work gath-ering city staff, business owner and public input on how to expand housing opportunities and promote economic development. It also will establish a downtown advisory committee.

The goal is to create a comprehensive vision for downtown's future and a plan for carrying it out.

The money will come out of the city's redevelopment bond funds. City staff issued a $36.6 million bond in 2006 to pay for similar projects. About $32 million remains for items such as parks, infrastructure improvements and the Mitchell and Service roads interchange.

The contract sets the maximum expenditure at $350,000, with the firm to cover any overruns.

Also on the Monday agenda:

A public hearing on and possible approval of public transportation in- creases and reorganized bus routes. City staff is asking to raise the prices people pay to ride Ceres Area Transit and Ceres Dial-a-Ride.

General and senior fares for Dial-a-Ride would increase a quarter to $1.25 and $1, re- spectively. CAT general tickets would increase from 75 cents to $1, while senior passes would stay at 75 cents. The senior prices include disabled people and those with Medicare cards.

"They are on a fixed income and we want to accommodate them as much as possible. They are the ones that really need the transportation," said Kay Dunkel, of Ceres public transit.

Higher fuel costs and inflation make the increases necessary, she said.

Officials want to change a CAT afternoon route to serve Central Valley High School students getting out of school.

Officials will add a route to meet the demands of weekend riders, who are traveling to shopping centers and churches as well as hopping on a connection to Modesto public transit.

Buses carry about 9,700 riders a month.

Approve the city's 2007 housing element update.

Part of the city's general plan, the document serves as the blueprint for how the city will be developed. It specifies how new housing units will serve the population's varying income levels.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in the council chamber, 2210 Magnolia St., and includes time for public comment. To view the agenda, go to modbee.com and click the link with this story.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.