Open trash bins
overloaded with refuse, boxes strewn about and the sickening stench of urine strong
in the air is making a relatively small stretch of downtown Calexico alleys unbearable
for a pair of city council members.
“We need results, not just talk. … I want the bins cleaned up, not overflowing. I don’t want trash in the alleys. I want the stench removed,” Calexico Mayor Bill Hodge said during a Nov. 18 interview.
The situation comes amid
work on the city’s Downtown Action Plan, a multi-pronged effort to clean up
downtown and attract more merchants.
“There was movement, but
it was done halfway and stopped. They put the gates up, but not the locks,”
The mayor was referring
to two eight-foot wrought iron gates that were installed more than a month ago by
the city at the alley entrances between First and Second streets from Rockwood to
The $10,000 gates were
paid for by city waste contractor Republic/Allied Waste. They were supposed to
be secured with locks at both ends to keep out transients and migrant
farmworkers who Hodge and Council Member Morris Reisen said use the alleys as
restrooms and who rummage through open and overflowing trash bins at all hours.
Yet even with the gates
up, the problems persist, Hodge said, “because people just keep going through
the alleys through the unlocked gates.”
Hodge and Reisen met with
City Manager David Dale and Assistant City Manager Miguel Figueroa on Nov. 15
to talk about the alleys and some other city issues, Hodge said.
Lack of Locks Questioned
The council members
wanted to know why city staff had yet to install the locks as the council had asked, Hodge said. They were
told the locks might result in a liability issue for the city that still needs
to be resolved through discussions with the city attorney, he added. Further,
Hodge added he was told getting the locks installed might also require either
an ordinance or a vote of the council.
Dale wasn’t immediately
available for comment on the issue before deadline, as he was out of the office
earlier in the week of Nov. 18.
Something has be done
soon, Reisen said, because the city will be getting ready to install a second
set of wrought iron gates, again paid for by Republic/Allied. They will be
placed in the same alley between First and Second streets, but from the other side
of Rockwood Avenue to just before the rear entrance of the Greyhound bus
station on First and Paulin Avenue.
Reisen and Hodge want to
see those gates locked as well.
Reisen was asked why
those particular alleys were such troubled areas. He said it’s because of the
high concentration of businesses operating on First and Second streets from
Heffernan to Paulin.
The state of the alleys
is not entirely a city problem, Hodge stressed. While one of the chief
complaints he has is how slow the city has been to get the locks installed, the
merchants themselves need to shoulder a good deal of the blame for the trash in
Reisen, who spends most
days in the downtown holding court with merchants, said he has talked to business
owners in the area about cutting up their boxes and putting them in their bins
rather than just throwing them out back.
Call For More Trash Pick
Also, Hodge said he knows
some of the merchants are making a conscious choice to have their trash picked
up by Republic/Allied only once a week to keep down costs. That needs to
change, Hodge said, and he wants to propose a city ordinance soon that requires
business owners to have trash pick-up services a minimum of two times a week.
Likewise, Reisen said he
believes the city needs another ordinance requiring locks on trash bins, and
the wrought iron alley gates, for that matter, from 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven
days a week. That would keep transients and others from rummaging through the
trash at night.
Dale was asked through an
email whether there is a mechanism in place to fine or cite downtown merchants
for not keeping the alleys clean, such as a nuisance-abatement ordinance. He
did not immediately answer due to being out of the office.
Many of the problems that
are now driving Hodge and Reisen to speak up seemingly would be solved when a
new trash contract with Republic/Allied begins Jan. 1.
Among the tenets of the
new contract are various enhancements to the level of service and attention the
city’s downtown will receive. This will include downtown trash pick-up five
days a week, downtown street-sweeping services three times a week and a
Republic/Allied employee working four hours a day, five days a week just making
sure trash is picked up and in the trash bins.
However, that original
timeline would not be in place to help keep downtown cleaner during the busy
holiday shopping season, a time when the area may wish to put on its best face
to entice long-term customers.
The renegotiated contract
was one element of the action plan. It addresses matters including taxicab
placement and the development of a pedestrian plaza near Rockwood and First.
One positive that came
from the Nov. 15 discussions with Dale and Figueroa, Hodge and Reisen said, was
that Republic/Allied has apparently agreed to start some of its enhanced services
by Dec. 1 at no additional cost to the city. Reisen said trash pick-up five
days a week will begin next month.
Neither Hodge nor Reisen
could say when the issue of the locked gates might be resolved. While Reisen
said he might bring up the issue at the Nov. 20 council meeting, no action
could be taken because the issue was not on the meeting agenda.
The meeting was held
after this newspaper’s deadline.