Although the Calexico City Council had taken actions including increasing the number of cannabis-related permits, no retail shops had opened in the city by the end of 2019 and little of the projected revenues from pot-related fees and taxes had been realized.
During the year, the
number of retail cannabis permits have been increased three times, from five,
to seven, and most recently to 12.
The number of
cultivation, manufacturing and distribution permits were doubled to place them
into industrial-scale and small-scale classes based on gross receipts and
For two years in a row
projected revenue tied to the cannabis industry have significantly fallen
short. The city originally projected revenues of $900,000. However, that amount
will be about $50,000 by June 30, 2020, Calexico City Manager David Dale has
Heading into 2020,
Calexico will begin to talk about the possibility of providing
cost-of-living-adjustment increases for city workers just a couple years
removed from nearly claiming bankruptcy amid about $4 million in deficits in
By the end of the current
fiscal year, June 30, 2020, the city is expected to have an ending general fund
balance of $755,000, according to Dale.
Mayor Bill Hodge recently
called for a pay raise for all city workers. Meanwhile, in January, Dale said
the city will work up some scenarios in which costs of a raise are looked at. The
city will hear from finance officials on a mid-year budget report.
December marked the end
to a year of financial recovery by the city in which careful budgeting included
the city finally paying back $3.5 million it borrowed from its own water funds
to keep the city afloat. The city has been working with 144 employees, down
more than 100 from several years back, and maintaining careful spending habits
following years of financial mismanagement by past councils and city
administrations, officials said.
When the city passed its
budget in June 2019, it was the first approved budget to include a projected
surplus in several years.
3. Cesar Chavez Boulevard Project Completed
In early November, the city
council approved a final payment of $243,000 to put an end to the Cesar Chavez
Boulevard road-widening and rehabilitation project. It began more than nine years ago, went through
several city councils and seven city managers.
The project was beset by
delays and cost overruns that pushed back the expanded roadway’s opening by
nearly five months and soared costs to $7.4 million, more than $1 million over
the projected price tag.
City officials came to
the council seven times to approve budget changes, also known as change orders.
Those items addressed functional and cosmetic additions to the project by the
city, unforeseen problems found during site excavation and costly delays caused
by utility companies that often operated on their own timelines, officials explained.
The Cesar Chavez
Boulevard improvement project expanded the street to four lanes from Highway
98/Birch Street to Second Street. Opened to traffic at the end of June, the
Cesar Chavez improvements were mostly funded by federal grant dollars so the
expanded thoroughfare could be used as the primary path to enter Mexicali
through the Calexico West Port of Entry. The former route was through Imperial
In 2019, Calexico unveiled
its Downtown Action Plan, a series actions and ordinances meant to revitalize
the beleaguered downtown shopping district that saw its heyday prior to the
Most recently, the city council
passed a resolution that limited access to the public to the alley between
First and Second streets between Heffernan and Paulin avenues. Locks were to be
placed on eight-foot gates installed at the entries to those alleys.
The gates were erected to
stop the homeless and others from dumping trash in the alleys, using the areas
as a toilet and starting dumpster fires, affecting the cleanliness of downtown.
The move was just the
latest in a series that started with the council’s approval of the action plan
in the spring. It included revising taxicab ordinances to increase fines levied
against illegal cab operators and to start fining those who use such illegal
Other decisions included
approving a new trash contract this past fall with Allied Waste/Republic
Services that will start in January. The new contract includes enhanced
downtown cleanup, such as street-sweeping three times a week.
Other approved elements
include the announcement of a soon-to-come closure of First Street at Rockwood
Avenue for the development of a pedestrian-only promenade through a $200,000
grant from the Southern California Association of Governments.
Recently renewed efforts
between Calexico and officials with the now-closed Santo Tomas Swap Meet to
consider reopening the business have capped a tumultuous year. It included a
lawsuit, claims by vendors against the city and ongoing public criticism over
the city’s handling of the matter.
The biggest news of the
year had to be the ownership’s decision in late June to close the family-owned
business at 1102 V.V. Williams Ave. after 45 years of operation, leaving dozens
of vendors out of work.
The swap meet first made
headlines following a Dec. 8, 2018, weekend, late-night fire caused by faulty
electrical wiring that ravaged numerous vendor stalls at the popular outdoor
business. The fire brought to light a list of around 50 alleged building and
fire code violations, many of which were left unaddressed by the time the
Martinez family decided to close Santo Tomas on June 30.
Throughout early 2019,
city officials staged numerous meetings with swap meet officials and vendors to
find ways to allow it to reopen in some capacity. Portions of the marketplace
were intermittently opened prior to the final closure.
When Santo Tomas
officials opened up its gates to vendors and the public in early spring,
despite the city’s warning against doing so, the city sued. The suit asked a Superior Court judge to declare the swap meet
a “public nuisance” and danger due to code violations. The city won a judgment
to close down the swap meet in March. Later, the suit was dropped after
successful mediation in May led to a limited reopening of the swap meet while
both sides negotiated a timeline to make code violation repairs to the
Citing tenets of a
proposed swap meet ordinance that was later passed by the city council in
September, the Martinez family opted to close the business on June 30.
More recently, members of
the Calexico City Council have been meeting with representatives from the
Martinez family and vendors to “restore trust” and work toward possibly reopening
the business, according to council members Bill Hodge and Morris Reisen.
In December, Santo Tomas
official Carlos Gonzalez said his family wanted to see provisions of the newly
passed swap meet ordinance revised or removed. He was specifically referring to
removing and storing the merchandise from vendor stalls daily. He said leaving
those provisions unchanged was a “deal breaker” to reopening.
City Manager Dale said
removing the merchandise was something specifically included in the basic
operating requirements of a swap meet in the city for the purposes of public
safety because of the 2018 fire.