Ceres pays for a downtown plan

CERES -- The City Council agreed Monday night to pay a firm $350,000 to develop a plan to revamp downtown.

Berkeley's Design, Community & Environment will focus on gathering input about how best to revitalize downtown by offering better housing, entertainment and business options.

The contract covers about a year of work getting input from city staff, business owners and the public on how to expand housing opportunities and promote eco- nomic development. It will establish a downtown advisory committee as well.

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

Mayor Anthony Cannella said he wanted to see at least one council member on the committee and expressed his excitement at beginning the first step in the long-awaited revitalization.

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 such projects.

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

With no discussion or public comment, the council also approved a rate increase, effective in January, for public transit riders and reorganization of bus routes.

General and senior fares for Dial-a-Ride will increase a quarter to $1.25 and $1, respectively. Ceres Area Transit general tickets will increase from 75 cents to $1. Senior passes would stay at 75 cents. The senior prices are available to disabled people and those with Medicare cards.

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

Officials will change a CAT afternoon route to serve Central Valley High School students getting out of school. And a route will be added 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.

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