Imperial Mayor Geoff Dale speaks openly about his convictions to protect Imperial's residents' and employees' right to choose how to best protect themselves during the pandemic at the Imperial City Council meeting on Wednesday, Jan 5. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO
IMPERIAL — By unanimous vote, the Imperial City Council, spearheaded by new Mayor Geoff Dale, approved a resolution opposing all pandemic-related mandates and refusing to enforce them, claiming such mandates are confusing and inconsistent.
This came during the City Council meeting on Wednesday evening, Jan. 5, just hours after the state announced an extension to its current indoor mask order until Feb. 15.
“At the direction of Mayor Dale, staff has put together the resolution before you opposing federal, state, and local mandates related to COVID-19 and supporting an individual’s choice to make healthcare decisions for themselves and their families,” Assistant City Manager Alexis Brown said as she introduced the resolution.
“We find that the confusion resulting from the ever-changing rules and regulations and inconsistent guidelines between various jurisdictions relating to mass vaccines, quarantines, etc., has made the mandates unenforceable and further infringes on citizens’ independence,” Brown continued.
The crux of the city’s argument is that the institutions providing guidance for the mandates, the California Department of Public Health namely, are overreaching their authority by creating a more severe mandate with harsher restrictions than what the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.
California’s current indoor mandate is what is known as a “universal mandate,” meaning every individual in the state is required to wear a mask with very few exceptions, whether they are religious or medical. This applies especially for California’s work force, putting a very heavy focus on the needs of the many over the needs of the few. The CDC’s recommendation, however, includes a list of people who are recommended to be exempt from the mandates, including people with disabilities and those whose workplaces make wearing a mask unsafe.
The city of Imperial resolution protests not so much the details of the current mandate, but of the concept behind the mandate, which denies individuals the right to choose, whether it be to wear the mask, to get vaccinated, or any other medical procedure.
“I agree that people should be able to make their own choice and not be told what to do. People are adults, people have their own life … I think this is another way to express that we are trying to look out for our community, we are trying to look out for our businesses, we are trying to look out for our city, and give them their own choice. So, I will support this 100 percent,” City Council member Robert Amparano said during the discussion.
City Council member Karin Eugenio said her reason for supporting the measure was she was frustrated over California’s decision to exempt San Francisco from the required mandate, since the reasoning for their exemption was vaccination rates. She said San Francisco’s rate is equivalent to Imperial County’s rate.
San Francisco currently has a vaccination rate of 81.97 percent, only .57 percent higher than Imperial County at 81.40 percent.
“In the context of San Francisco, we have the same vaccination rates. So, if there are exemptions that will be made, then we should be included in those exemptions,” Eugenio said.
The driving force behind the resolution, Mayor Dale, spoke openly about his frustrations over the mandates, upset over the idea of people feeling forced to take a vaccine just to continue working, and what children living through the pandemic have lost. Dale expressed firmly that he supported the right to choose in the mandate debate, which is why he pushed so hard to get the resolution on the agenda.
“I’m very thankful for this council and this staff. I think everybody has a personal choice of what they want to do, if they want to wear a mask, be vaccinated, or take any other precautions. That’s their individual right, and that’s also the same for the unvaccinated. And so with this, I’m very pleased and thankful. So, I have a motion, and a second, can we please vote?” said Dale with a smile, before voting not to enforce the mask mandate in Imperial.
Zencity Software Chosen to Monitor Social Media
The council voted to approve the purchase of Zencity Community Engagement Software, a program that will monitor social media for conversations around city issues, for a term of three years, in the amount of $45,000.
“Zencity has an algorithm that gets deployed to the various sites, using keywords and data. They’re able to collect what the conversations already are, with allowing for still the obvious ambiguity or autonomy of those persons saying it,” Brown said.
Zencity will search throughout all social media sites, looking for issues related to local governments, like people complaining about sidewalks in certain areas or whether there is a problem with city services, and it will look for repeat complaints, compile those complaints, without the names of the users saying them, and generate a report so the city can respond to the issues more effectively.
While the software will cost the city a total of $45,000, or $15,000 per year, the purchase of the program will be paid for out of American Rescue Plan Act funding, part of a COVID stimulus package passed in March 2021 to help local governments recover from the pandemic.
Trio of Public Services Repairs Approved
Three major public service projects — the water treatment plant booster pump rebuilds, the trouble shooting and replacement of the varying frequency drive, and the airport loop waterline improvement project — were approved by the council.
The first project, the rebuilding of the booster pumps at the water treatment plant, is a continuation of a project that began last year but was broken into two phases so the city could more easily bear the cost.
“You have a total of four motors and pumps at the water plant, that are the high service pumps that push water to the town. We rebuilt two in the last year budget, and they wanted to do the next two in this year’s budget. It’s expected not to exceed $40,000,” Public Services Director Jackie Loper said.
The second project, the varying frequency drive trouble shooting and replacement project will see the replacement of a VFD component on booster pump No. 3, which allows the motor to gradually ramp up to meet the actual flow and pressure demand within the range of the pump’s performance capabilities. The current component is obsolete. The replacement will be done by Tess Electric for $32,977, plus the city budgeted an extra 20 percent for inflation, bringing the total to $39,572.40, though the council decided to dedicate an even $40,000 just be sure to cover all expenses.
The final project was the airport loop waterline improvement project, which will install a water pipe from the Imperial Airport Loop to the Sky Ranch housing area. Escondido-based company SRK Engineering won the bid in the amount of $567,910.
Loper estimated that this project would only take 120 days after starting the work to complete the project, though he warned that there was a high likelihood of hitting ground water after construction begins, but he warned the contractors ahead of time, so they are prepared for that issue, though it may cause delays.