EL ENTRO — Citing a need to gather clearer information, the El Centro City Council postponed a final decision to adopt a local eviction ban at its regular meeting April 7.
Without calling a vote, council members explained they would continue the discussion. Speaking by conference call, City Council Member Edgard Garcia stressed the need to clarify the proposed 90-day residential eviction ban so as not to conflict with state law.
“Everybody needs to get on the same page,” Garcia cautioned.
With untold numbers of El Centro residents out of work and not being paid due to forced nonessential business closures and mandated stay-at-home orders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the council took up discussion on a moratorium on owners of rental homes or apartment complexes and other building being able to evict people for unpaid rent for a period of 90 days.
Rent Deferment But Not Forgiven
Also teleconferencing, council member Tomas Oliva urged caution as well.
“It’s important to have people understand since some have the misconception that an eviction moratorium means that back rent is forgiven,” Oliva said. “That is not the case.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order good through May 31 that applies to residential leases only. It leaves in place the ability of commercial landlords to enforce evictions of commercial tenants. The law applies only to tenants whose failure to pay rent are directly related to COVID-19. To qualify for a stay, a tenant must advise the landlord before the rent is due or no later than after seven days of the due date. Evictions for other reasons are still allowed.
El Centro Mayor Efrain Silva promised the council will return to closed session to further the discussion yet there could be a resolution on April 8, he said. No announcement came by this newspaper’s deadline.
Retailers Warned of Taking Advantage During Outbreak
Regarding the issue of price gouging by some city retailers, El Centro Police Chief Brian Johnson reiterated his department had received a number of complaints since Gov. Newsom’s state of emergency declaration March 4.
Yet Johnson again reminded the council and those listening that, so far, any allegations of gouging have been unfounded. He did cite multiple complaints against one retailer, who was put on notice. The council voted unanimously to extend its anti-gouging resolution for another 30 days.
Public Office Closures
City Manager Marcela Piedra reminded the audience the public will not have access to employees at city hall. All operations of police, fire, waste disposal, building inspections, street maintenance, parks maintenance, will continue uninterrupted. Department contact information is available on the City’s website. If a person needs assistance, phone city hall reception desk at 760-337-4540.
Staff reminded that the following recreational facilities are closed: Adult Center, Aquatic Center, Community Center, Conrad Harrison Youth Center, Old Post Office Pavilion, Martin L. King Jr. Sports Pavilion, El Centro Public Library, Sidewinder Skate Park, and the Splash Pad. All City parks will remain open to the public with social distancing guidelines recommended. All organized sports practices at city parks are cancelled, and all special events also cancelled.
Wastewater Treatment Rehab
In other business, a city resolution was approved unanimously with the Coombs Service Group to provide equipment for clarifier No. 4 at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. There will be no impact to the general fund. Wastewater enterprise funds are to be utilized for clarifier repairs. Clarifiers remove suspended solids from the city wastewater system.
The contract amount is $292,500, plus a contingency of $29,250, for a total project budget of $321,750.
During the past few months, staff noticed mechanical problems with clarifier No. 4 of the wastewater treatment plant’s four clarifiers, said Abraham Campos, department of public works director. “Clarifier No. 4 was already down and budgeted for repair this year, but since clarifier No. 3 failed, city (sewer plant) brought clarifier No. 4 back into operation while clarifier No. 3 is being repaired,” Campos said. ” As soon as clarifier No. 3 work is completed, work can commence on clarifier No. 4 repairs here proposed.”