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Calexico Makes Decisions that Affect Citizens Wallets

CALEXICO — Although it was the first Calexico City Council meeting since social distancing was put in place due to COVID-19 concerns and closed to the public, it was business as usual on March 18 for the most part when the city made several decisions affecting the wallets of its citizens.

This came as many people employed in nonessential jobs have been sent home from work for an undetermined amount of time, some of whom have been laid off and will need to file unemployment insurance claims.

Public comments for the meeting were accepted in writing and by email.

The council unanimously approved a $1.88 increase per month in fees for residential customers collected by Republic Services/Allied Waste for the operation of an organic waste recycling program mandated by the state. The increase to residential customers was for the operation of the recycling program only.

At the same time, the council approved a $2.58 per month increase for commercial customers. That included an increase for the operation of the recycling program and for an annual rate increase tied to the Consumer Price Index increase that went into effect in January 2019. It was not factored into the monthly approved rates when the city signed a new service contract with Republic/Allied in November.

The CPI increase, according to the city’s contract with Republic/Allied, could have covered residential services, but that increase was not being recommended or applied here; only the added cost of the recycling program, according to a report by City Manager David Dale.

The same level of rate increases was being applied to the cities of Imperial and Brawley, which all have agreements in place with Republic/Allied, Dale stated in the report. 

An organic waste recycling program, which was approved as part of Assembly Bill 1826 in 2014, is meant to divert organic waste from landfills. Organic waste is defined as food waste, green waste, landscaping and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste.

Bus and Taxi Fares

Council was split on its support of a resolution to raise the maximum taxicab and bus fares in the city, with a 4-1 vote. Calexico Mayor Bill Hodge opposed the decision.

“With this coronavirus and heading into a recession and people losing their jobs, this is not to time to increase bus and taxi fares on our citizens,” Hodge said March 19, a day after the meeting, which was livestreamed on the city’s website. “This is going to have a negative impact to our most vulnerable citizens, the elderly.”

The base rate for taxicab fares were increased by $1.50 per ride, with council member Morris Reisen ensuring that any motion include that seniors pay a $1 less for taxi rates. All bus fares were increased by 50 cents.

The proposed rate increases were being recommended following a “fair market analysis” and a comparison of fares in “similarly situated cities,” according to a report by City Attorney Carlos Campos.

The increases are meant to “account for the increase in operational costs borne by both taxicab transportation service providers and bus operators,” Campos wrote in the report.

Taxicab fares within the city will increase from a maximum of $5 a ride to $6.50 per ride (with $1 less for seniors). Bus fares will increase to a maximum $1.75 for general fare, $3.50 for round-trips and $1.50 for students and seniors. This affects private bus providers and not Imperial Valley Transit public bus service.

BID Fees

The council also moved forward with the process to consider levying fees on businesses in the city’s Business Improvement District in a two-step process.

In the first step, the council unanimously approved an annual report of the BID advisory board and set an April 1 public hearing on levying the annual assessment on businesses in the district.

The second step involved opening a public hearing during the March 18 council meeting and continuing the hearing to April 1 to determine if “there exists a majority protest to levying the calendar year 2020 assessment” for the district.

At issue, ultimately, is whether the city will continue to collect $100 through annual city business licenses to fund BID. That affects about 445 businesses operating within the district. The fees are used for “promotion, marketing and advertising of professional and retail businesses located in the BID,” Campos reported.

The BID is divided into two zones. Zone one includes the businesses from First to Fourth streets and from Mary Avenue west to Paulin Avenue. Zone two is Paulin Avenue west to Emerson Avenue (with Imperial Avenue located between) and from the border north to Highway 98/Birch Avenue.

Ball Fields Fencing

The City Council split 4-1 on approving a bid of $167,750 by Crafters Fence Inc. of Santee for the Adrian C. Cordova baseball fields fencing project.

Reisen voted against awarding the bid. Prior to the final vote, Reisen made a motion to throw out the three received bids so that another local company that missed putting in for the project could do so. He said the local fencing company did not know the project had gone out to bid.

Public Works Manager Liliana Falomir, whose department is working on the parks project, said the bid was properly advertised on the city’s website and in publications, and that other local companies were aware of the timeline.

Dale said rejecting the bids would delay the project by two or three months and might not allow the city enough time to plant grass this year at the ballfields being constructed if there is a delay.

Reisen’s motion died for a lack of second, and the council voted to accept Crafters Fence Inc.’s bid.

The project involves building fences for three baseball fields in the undeveloped portion of the park. The 15-acre Cordova Park is located on Clinton Avenue between Zapata Drive and Meadows Drive in the eastern part of Calexico.

On March 5 the city received three bids, with Crafters being the lowest bid. The others were Red Hawk Services Inc. of Perris ($244,070) and George Mitchell Builders Inc. of Brawley ($253,000), which is a local company.

The fencing project was already budgeted into the current 2019-20 fiscal year for the Capital Improvement Program and is being paid for through Measure H bonds. Measure H is a voter-approved half-cent sales tax.

Cordova Park is being worked on in stages as funding becomes available.

This story is featured in the Mar 26, 2020 e-Edition.

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