CALEXICO — Since the Calexico City Council meetings are closed to the general public due to mandatory social distancing and stay-at-home orders, it will be difficult to get a true bead on how many of the 400-plus affected local merchants within the city’s Business Improvement District might oppose an annual levy assessed to fund the district.
With the threat of COVID-19 affecting all areas of
public and private life, the council has gone online only to decide the
The council meeting was to be carried online live April
1 and posted to the city’s website by noon April 3. In addition to the public
hearing, the council was also being asked to preliminarily approve assessing
the fees for the 2020 calendar year.
The meeting occurred after this newspaper’s print
Comments for the public hearing were solicited through
the meeting agenda and during the March 18 council meeting during the online webcast.
Citizens were asked to email comments to City Clerk Gabriela Garcia, who would
then read the comment into the record.
During the March 18 meeting, the council unanimously approved an annual report of the BID advisory
board and opened the public hearing, continuing the hearing to April 1 in order
to solicit comments to determine if “there exists a majority protest to levying
the calendar year 2020 assessment” for the district, according to a report to
the council by City Attorney Carlos Campos.
At issue 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.
Through the assessments the district can build an annual war chest of around $44, 500 a year.
Often referred to as a downtown district by its
critics, 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.
There is often chatter among local merchants that
while zone two pays the same fees, zone one (downtown) gets the benefits.
Calexico Mayor Bill Hodge in the past has said that
sentiment, while not true, does exist and needs to be overcome by making sure
the funding used impacts all zones. He has also advocated that in addition to
marketing, promotion and events, that BID fees also be used to assist in
beautification efforts, security and business attraction and retention.
The current BID board seems amenable to the requests,
and its staff advisor, Assistant City Manager Miguel Figueroa, has said in the
past it can use its funds for those purposes if it sees fit.
Calexico council member Morris Reisen, a longtime
downtown business owner and former BID advisory board president, actively
lobbies the BID to help pay for things like additional locked gates for
downtown alleys to keep them clean and free of crime and vandalism. He has also
asked that the bid pay for new downtown trash bins and other expenses.
BID members have been key to helping the city enact
its Downtown Action Plan, a set of ordinances and actions meant to revitalize
the beleaguered shopping district that is now being hit hard by the COVID
Downtown has been like a ghost town since March 20,
when the Trump administration began travel restrictions between the U.S. and
Mexico, all but eliminating daily shoppers from Mexicali for a minimum of 30
days, the length of the temporary restrictions. That situation has been
compounded by the governor’s mandatory order that all nonessential businesses
close to the public.
City Needs an Asphalt Patch Truck
In the only other action item on the city’s agenda,
the council is being asked to authorize the city manager to spend $213,000 to
buy a new asphalt patch truck for the Public Works Department’s streets
The purchase would replace an asphalt patch truck the
city bought in 1991 that has since broken down, according to a report to the
council by Public Works Manager Liliana Falomir.
“The asphalt patch truck is a piece of equipment that
is essential for the Public Works Department-Streets Division to perform
maintenance on city streets and patch potholes,” Falomir wrote in the report.
While there is no indication the city went through a
competitive bidding process to find the truck, the report states the purchase
will be made under a “cooperative purchase agreement” that included a
“qualified public bidding process.”
The cost is $213,984 through PB Loader Corp. of Fresno
and will be paid for by city’s gas tax fund. The purchase was already part of
the city’s fiscal 2019-2020 budget.