From the monthly archives: January 2010

By Luke Phillips
After a slight hiccup, Holtville’s first annual Music Festival will take place this Saturday at Hot Rods & Beer as part of the Carrot Festival.
Hot Rods & Beer, owned by John Prock, has been operating in Holtville on a Conditional Use Permit since opening last July. Since the permit restricts several of the activities planned for the music festival, the city determined that Mr. Prock would need to obtain a special license from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department to hold the event, which would also have to be approved by city officials.
The Holtville Planning Commission added an emergency item to their Jan. 19 agenda to consider a one-day exception to Hot Rods & Beer’s Conditional Use Permit, but the exception was unanimously denied due to the fact that the special ABC license and detailed plans for the event had not been submitted.
Mr. Prock submitted the plans and his special license to the city on Monday, Jan. 25, and after city attorney Steve Walker determined that the Holtville City Council was the final authority in the matter, and an item was added to the council agenda to consider an appeal of the planning commission decision.
“I think there was a lack of communication between Mr. Prock, the chamber and the city,” Holtville City Manager Laura Fischer told the council at their Jan. 25 meeting.
Fischer advised the council that Mr Prock had met the conditions of the Conditional Use Permit – he agreed to move live music performances indoors after 9:30 p.m., to install a temporary 6-foot privacy fence around the Hot Rods & Beer parking lot where alcohol will be served, and to restrict access to the area from minors. Parking concerns were also addressed and Mr. Prock stated that Mi Casita restaurant has agreed to provide parking for the event.
“I believe that (fire) chief Silva and (police) chief Erro have had all of their concerns addressed,” Fischer told the council.
The council voted unanimously to approve the appeal of the Planning Commission decision.
“I don’t normally like overturning Planning Commission decisions,” said council member Richard Layton. “But in this case, I do believe if they had all this information in front of them, and they had our fire chief and police chief sign off on it, they would be okay with it.”
Holtville Planning Commission member Jim Predmore was present at the city council meeting and explained the decision to deny the permit.
“With it being somewhat of a city event, we just felt that it was actually putting the city in a predicament as far as sponsoring an event that had not met the conditional use permit,” Predmore told the council. “We didn’t have anything to go by and if nothing was done we don’t know what the outcome would have been. We thought that it (Hot Rods & Beer) wasn’t a real positive atmosphere. So I think that’s what we based our decision on.”

When asked if all of the planning commission’s concerns had been met, Predmore stated “I have one concern. I know that Turning Point has a meeting on Saturday night and the outdoor music during that time with what Turning Point is trying to do, with having people come to the church over there, it’s just maybe a negative influence. But other than that I feel everything else has been met.”
Mr. Prock also addressed the council and apologized for his handling of the event application.
“I just want to take the credit for screwing it up,” Prock said. “You know, I didn’t realize. I though I was dealing with the state body, and the ABC giving me permission. It was an opportunity to bring some enhancement to other businesses in the area and bring commerce to the city. This is the first time I’ve ever done it, and I’ll know how to do it next time. You know, I’m learning, and if you guys will be patient with me, it might help me stay in business. All I’d like is for my town to be behind what we do, not against it.”
The Holtville Music Festival will take place, as scheduled, this Saturday from 2 p.m. until 2 a.m at Hot Rods & Beer, 235 West 5th Street.


By Luke Phillips
The Holtville City Council is asking for more information before deciding on the future of the city’s trash disposal contract.
The city’s 7-year contract with Allied Waste Services expires in April of this year. The city has the option of negotiating a new contract exclusively with Allied Waste Services, or of preparing a Request for Proposals and putting the contract out to bid.
At a meeting Monday, Jan. 25, the council voted 4-1, with council member David Bradshaw dissenting,  to table the matter of Holtville’s trash contract after council member Bianca Padilla said that she would like to have more information before making a decision. Padilla said that she would like to see more information and comparisons on other cities in the Imperial Valley that have switched from Allied Waste Services to the valley’s other two waste service providers – CR&R and Palo Verde Disposal.
“I’d like to get, if we can, some more figures,” Padilla said. “For example, I heard the city of Imperial did negotiate with Allied, and I’d like to get some kind of comparison figures. And maybe some other comparisons, like El Centro, who didn’t go with Allied. That’s what I’d like to see.”
If the council decides to put the contract out for bid, it runs the risk of changing revenue generated by the 12 percent Franchise Tax agreement with Allied Waste. A new contract would mean that the city would have to negotiate new terms for tax revenues.
According to a report to the council from city manager Laura Fischer, each option has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Negotiating exclusively with Allied would mean less staff hours and resources would be required, but putting the contract out to bid would mean a more transparent hauler selection process and more competition.

“We need to act on this fairly quickly,” Fischer told the council.  “Our rates right now are higher than most cities, so there is a lot of room to negotiate.”
Council member Jerry Brittsan urged the council to negotiate exclusively with Allied, outlining many of the advantages he sees in staying with the company.
“A number of things come to mind when thinking about the 7-year option with allied waste,” Brittsan said.  “Currently, Allied provides a number of things. It’s assistance to the chamber during the Carrot Carnival and the rib cook-off, 50 percent of the salary for the recycle coordinator, semi-annual cleanup for the city, bulk item pick-up on a routine basis, and special pick-up as needed. At this time no other company has a landfill site, so free dumping would be eliminated if we went with another company. It also offers free Christmas tree pick up. The funds from Allied include, but are not limited to, $10,000 a year for alley maintenance and a 12 percent franchise fee. There was recently negative public feedback regarding the Sheriff as our police protection here in the city of Holtville, so we have lived with negative opinion before.”
Council member David Bradshaw supported putting the contract out for bid.
“With more than one vendor interested in our city, I think we should explore our options,” Bradshaw said. “It’s not that I have anything against our current trash pick-up service, it’s just that I think we should put it out there on the street and see if we can get a better deal for our taxpayers.”
City manager Laura Fischer will be directing city staff the gather the information requested by the council, and the city’s trash contract will be back on the agenda for action by the council at their next meeting Feb. 8.


At the end of december, I considered my resolutions carefully.  At the end, a resolution to not hold back my feelings concerning this column space was appropriate for the direction I plan on going.
So, without further adieu…
With plenty of talk being devoted to the “Downtown” area of Brawley in the past few years, I’m not seeing a whole lot done.
Sure, five events a year at Brawley’s Plaza Park organized by the Brawley Main Street Association is nice, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy myself at them.
However, do those events really raise awareness of the downtown area at this point or are they now something the public expects?
Right now, Downtown Brawley is doing okay but it could be much better.  However, the responsibility should not be put on the City itself.
There are eyesores in the area that need to be dealt with, including defunct buildings, unusable lots and other problems.
What Downtown Brawley needs is a makeover, and it needs to be done by the businesses and building owners in the area.  Parts like the old Texaco station and the Brawley Theatre need to be torn down and rebuilt as something else.  Historic is one thing, useless is quite another.
The City, the Chamber and the businesses in the area can talk about revitalizing the downtown area all they want, but something needs to be done before people will even consider doing business in that area.
And no, the economy is no excuse for not making the necessary changes.  When times are bad, nothing gets done out of necessity, but when times are good, nothing is done out of greed.
For all the talk about graffiti, and how big a problem it is in Brawley, there isn’t much done to discourage it.
I’m not talking about The City of Brawley, who spent over $100,000 of taxpayer money fighting graffiti last year and the money isn’t there to pay the graffiti crews.
Also not to blame are the Brawley Police Department, who have done everything humanly possible to discourage tagging.
However, it’s difficult to arrest a tagger as they need to be caught in the act and there needs to be a good witness to the crime.
While irresponsible parents are mostly to blame, some of the responsibility for tagging falls on businesses that do not paint over their buildings and walls as quickly as possible.
Those who “tag” buildings want their stuff on display, and business owners who don’t cover the graffiti immediately are only encouraging more in their area.
The solution is quite simple:  When graffiti is seen, paint over it as soon as possible.  A few dollars in paint and brushes will go a long way in discouraging taggers.
Graffiti may never go away completely, but if businesses take a pro-active approach and not a reactive one, it might be controlled.
For those who believe that prayer will help the victims of the recent Haiti earthquake need to look at situation on YouTube or on the news, get off your knees, and do something.
The only thing prayer does is make the person praying feel like he’s doing something when, in the most undisputable of facts, they are doing nothing.
What the people Haiti need is tangible, temporal help in the form of food, medical assistance and other aid.
Prayer alone will not help rescue workers find survivors or to account for the dead and missing.
Prayer alone will not feed , clothe or shelter Hatians who have lost their homes, families and social order.
Prayer alone will not do anything for the Hatian people.  What you should do is find a reputable charity and donate what you can afford.
As we approach February, we find ourselves gearing up for another California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta.
This year, in lieu of a main attraction act, the Fair Board is giving us another series of tribute band concerts like last year.
This year, expect bands paying homage to The Eagles, Van Halen, The Beatles as well as tributes to country music, and music from the 1960s.
The Fair Board is doing this in order to save money as hiring mainstream musicians is expensive and it should be applauded.
Last year’s concerts were entertaining and this year’s acts will generate the same excitement.
Of course, improvements to the general area, including the pavement and a reconstruction of the Grandstand and racetrack area would be applauded as well.
Perhaps it’s time to move the race track to another part of the facility and create a real area for a concert stage at the fairgrounds.
Since the racetrack is dirt and not concrete or asphalt, moving the track area shouldn’t be as difficult as some might imagine.  Also, this would clear up much needed space for large concerts  and other outdoor events.
It would also create an impetus to reconstruct the Grandstand itself, something that’s long overdue.
Until next time…


Pictured from the Right: Griselda Gonzalez, Chairman Louis Fuentes, Gregg Wislon CA PAL, Jim Neujahr, Carmen Estrada,Jesus Serrano, Diego Romero Asst. Vice Principal CHS Photo by Angel Ezparza Envision Media & Design

One of the best run and most successful programs in the State of California was the host for a visit by the California Police Activities League and it’s Executive Director Gregg Wilson this week. After a lunch with the active PAL’s from Imperial County, Gregg Wilson and his staff met with Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and District 1 – Calexico Representative Louis Fuentes at the PAL office in Calexico.
“We are impressed with the amount of commitment and dedication shown by the Board of Directors and the Athletic Director Carmen Estrada…”said Gregg Wilson. “The success is very tangible, the trophies on the wall are impressive, we want to take some back to our headquarters there are so many.”
Carmen Estrada commented “This program had only 68 kids in 2004 when I took over as Athletic Director and now has over 2,800 kids in Calexico.” (It should be noted that this is an completely voluntary unpaid position.) “I cannot express the gratitude that we feel towards Chief Neujahr. He has been a great supporter of PAL and I know this dear to him.”
Starting in 1991, California PAL expanded its mission to engage youth by bringing together youth teams from local member PAL’s throughout the state. California PAL continues to serve youth from many backgrounds and locations throughout the state.
Chairman Fuentes has been a supporter of the Police Activities League in Calexico since 2006 his first year elected. “It is important to have an avenue for our youth to play sports, exercise and stay out of trouble. The work that Mrs. Estrada and the Parents on the Board engage in is so important and admirable. They have done wonders with very little financial support.”
Gregg Wilson shared with PAL representatives and parents some suggestions for working with the City of Calexico to enhance it’s cooperation. The program has been in danger of closing in recent weeks due to the staff person acting as the liaison between the Calexico Police Department being reassigned to other duties. The city’s budget constraints and staff limitations have left no room for traditional support.
“I think we have an opportunity to think outside traditional ways the City of Calexico has supported this large group of parents and young citizens. The Council and Administration need to be brought into this discussion so that the kids are not left without a program.“ commented Chairman Fuentes.
The Police Activities League has traditionally relied on parents, donations and the support of the community to run its programs. Typically Recreational Programs run by cities have a fee to enroll and participate, this fee is higher than what most families can
California Police Activities League Visits Imperial County
TODAY’S DATE: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 TIME: 1 p.m.
TEL: (760) 482-4200 E-mail:
afford given the Valley’s demographics. PAL’s provide a venue for those that can’t pay the fee because they have the ability to fund raise to offset the costs. This is where an opportunity exists to work together with the City’s department and staff.
Gregg Wilson further shared his thoughts, “In the era of budget shortfalls, there are examples of Communities across the State coming together to devise a structure where parents, volunteers and City staff work together to man the programs and provide the supervision to the athletic programs. Oxnard is a good example of this. Ultimately the community needs to come together so that the kids don’t go down the wrong path with nothing to do.” Gregg Wilson commented as he was greeted with over 50 kids and parents outside PAL’s offices in Calexico for photo opps with him.
The California Police Activities League (PAL) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded over 35 years ago by a group of police officers, spearheaded by a San Francisco Police Detective, Charles Ellis. The California PAL office is located in San Leandro, California. As a working collaboration of staff, Board of Directors, and member chapters, California PAL provides services and support to over 100 local Police, Sheriff’s, and Youth Activity Leagues from throughout the State of California.


Sheriff’s Office Has a Heart for Community

The Holtville station of the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department is making a great effort to become a vital part of the community of Holtville.  On Wednesday, Sgt. Erro and his deputies pulled out all the stops to make a wonderful presentation to the children at Miss Betty’s Preschool.  The children were welcomed by the staff and Deputy Benavidez took them on a tour of the building to give them an idea of how the office operates.

They were then escorted to the parking lot where there was a great deal of excitement.  Sgt. Erro and Deputies Ramirez, Benavidez, Quesada, and Madad had several patrol cars for the children to explore and a few trucks as well.  The K-9 unit was a great hit, as were the lights and sirens.  Definitely the most popular vehicle on display was the offroad buggy that is used for search and rescue.  Every child was given the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of that buggy, and there were smiles all around.

Sgt. Erro concluded the tour by having the Crime Prevention unit come in to fingerprint and ID each child, which they were able to take home to their parents.  Before leaving, they were all given Sheriff’s badges of their own, which were worn proudly for the rest of the day.

Miss Betty and all the parents of Miss Betty’s Preschool would like to thank Sgt. Erro and the crew for taking time to create such a wonderful experience for the children.  It was a morning they will not forget and will be talking about for quite some time.

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