From the monthly archives: May 2011

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. A busy Memorial Day weekend for U.S. Border Patrol resulted in the rescue of a distressed mountain hiker, two separate narcotic seizures worth more than $290,000, and the arrests of two illegal aliens convicted of felony sex offenses.

At approximately 10:20 p.m. last night, agents from the El Centro station arrested four illegal aliens attempting to smuggle 2 duffel bags full of marijuana into the U.S. from Mexico.  The arrest took place after a Border Patrol remote video surveillance system operator spotted the individuals traveling northbound through the desert near Ocotillo, Calif.  Nearby agents were notified and responded to the smugglers location.  All four subjects were apprehended carrying a duffle bag containing marijuana which totaled over 100 pounds.   The street value of the marijuana has an estimated value of more than $82,000.  All suspects and narcotics were turned over to the Imperial County Narcotics Task Force.

The rescue occurred yesterday evening at around 7:40 p.m. when Border Patrol agents assigned to Border Search Trauma and Rescue Team (BORSTAR) were requested by local authorities to assist in locating a man who had made a distress call near Jacumba, Calif.  At approximately 8:30 p.m., BORSTAR made contact with the individual who appeared to be in stable condition but had sustained injuries to both ankles.  The 37-year old man–a United States citizen–claimed to have been hiking in the mountains when he fell an estimated 15 feet rendering him unable to walk.  BORSTAR members provided immediate care and the man was extracted from the mountains and transported to the El Centro Regional Medical Center for further treatment.  

Earlier that day at around 3 p.m., agents assigned to the Calexico station encountered a blue Jeep Liberty at the Interstate 8 Checkpoint near Calexico, Calif.  Agents became suspicious after questioning the driver and passenger of the vehicle during primary inspection.  The driver, a 19-year-old Mexican citizen with a lawful permanent resident card was placed in secondary inspection where a Border Patrol canine team performed a cursory search of the vehicle resulting in a positive canine alert.  After a thorough search of the vehicle, agents discovered several packages of methamphetamine and cocaine hidden throughout multiple non-factory compartments. The narcotics weighed approximately 9 pounds and have an estimated valued of more than $211,000.  The driver and passenger–a 20-year-old male U.S. Citizen–were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration along with the vehicle and narcotics.

Last Saturday in two separate incidents, agents from the El Centro station arrested two groups of illegal aliens attempting to enter the U.S. illegally from Mexico.  The group apprehensions took place at around 11:30 p.m. and occurred at approximately 3 and 27 miles west of Calexico, Calif.  Both groups were transported to the El Centro Border Patrol Station where agents discovered that two of the illegal aliens are aggravated felons with criminal history for felony sex offenses.  The men were identified as 35-year-old Gelberth Ermilio Albornos-Muy and 29-year-old Miguel Rodriguez-Sanchez.  Muy’s conviction was out of Los Angeles, Calif. in 2007 for felony oral copulation with a person under the age of 16.  Sanchez was also convicted in Los Angeles in 2005 for felony sex with a minor.  Both suspects are Mexican Citizens who had previously been deported from the U.S.  They are currently being held by the U.S. Border Patrol and will be presented for criminal prosecution.  

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

 

-CBP-

 

Stranded hiker being prepared for air extraction by BORSTAR and Yuma Marine Corps Air Station personnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vehicle used in an attempt to smuggle over $200,000 of narcotics through the I-8 Border Patrol Checkpoint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approximately 9 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine seized by U.S. Border Patrol Agents from a 19-year-old smuggler and her 20-year-old suspected accomplice at the I-8 Border Patrol Checkpoint

 

CA’s Electric System Revs ‘A+’; Outlook Stable

–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Fitch Ratings assigns the following rating to the Imperial Irrigation District, CA’s (IID) bonds:

–$78,065,000 electric system refunding revenue bonds, series 2011B ‘A+’.

The bonds are structured as fixed-rate, level debt service with a final maturity in 2041. The bonds are expected to price during the week of June 6 in a negotiated sale. Proceeds will be used to refund outstanding commercial paper that funded construction costs related to the repowering of El Centro, to pay costs of issuance, and to fund a debt service reserve fund. The debt service reserve fund for the series 2011B bonds will be funded at 50% of maximum annual debt service.

Fitch also affirms the following ratings for IID:

–$239.1 million electric system refunding revenue bonds, series 2008A at ‘A+’;

–$64.9 million electric system revenue certificates of participation (COPs) (prior lien) series 2003 at ‘A+’;

–$63.8 million pension obligation bonds (taxable), series 2001 at ‘A+’.

The Rating Outlook is Stable.

RATING RATIONALE:

–The ‘A+’ rating reflects IID’s robust financial performance, ample liquidity and a primarily agrarian electric service territory, which includes the Imperial Valley and the Coachella Valley. The majority of the load is now in the Coachella Valley, located adjacent to the Palm Springs area.

–The rating also takes into account IID’s substantial summer peak load, which is challenging to meet from a power supply perspective. To manage the summer peak, IID has built additional peaking capacity in the service area, begun to use more call options and has updated its gas and risk management strategies, which appear to be more effective in limiting IID’s exposure to cost volatility associated with such an extreme peak demand.

–Financial performance has been very strong in the last two fiscal years due to lower than anticipated purchased power costs. As a result, IID has built its reserves and placed $100 million into a rate stabilization fund that will be used to absorb potential cost variability over the next few years. Debt service coverage and liquidity levels are both very strong.

–Credit concerns include rate flexibility in the service area, although this is partially mitigated by lower purchased power costs have relieved cost pressure in the last couple of years. Additionally, a deferral of planned capital expenditures has also delayed the pressure to increase rates.

–The five-year electric system capital plan includes approximately $710 million in projects. Approximately half of the cost is expected to be debt financed, which will double IID’s debt in the next five years.

KEY RATING DRIVERS:

–Favorably, the Board of Directors is scheduled to consider unfreezing the Energy Cost Adjustment Factor (ECAF) that adjusts to recover actual purchased power and fuel costs in a timely manner. Notwithstanding the low purchased power and natural gas prices in the current economic environment, a responsive cost adjustment mechanism would be a valuable tool to have in place when cost pressure returns.

–Maintaining strong debt service coverage and liquidity levels, albeit not necessarily at the high point experienced in the last two years, will be the key to preserving credit quality as purchased power prices begin to increase at some point in the future.

SECURITY:

The bonds are secured by net revenues of the electric system. The 2003 COPs are prior lien obligations. The prior lien indenture has been closed and all subsequent debt is on parity with the 2011B bonds. The prior lien and parity lien obligations are rated on par, given the closed nature of the prior lien and IID’s strong coverage of all its debt obligations.

The pension obligation bonds are paid as an operating expense of the electric system. The electric system is obligated for 51.5% of the debt service and the remaining amount is paid from the water system (rated ‘AA-‘ by Fitch).

CREDIT SUMMARY:

The district has a unique service territory that includes the Imperial Valley (located near El Centro, CA) and the Coachella Valley. IID provides electric service to 146,646 customers. Load demand has declined slightly in the past two years due to economic conditions and a cooler summer in 2010. The Imperial Valley includes large areas of agricultural production and an economy that is linked to that of Mexicali, MX, located just south of the service territory. The economy in the Imperial Valley has been seriously affected by the current economic downturn and devaluation of the Mexican peso. However, the region continues to play a key role in providing food supply to the U.S. The Coachella Valley includes development in and around La Quinta, CA, which includes vacation and retirement property. Both areas have significant peak energy demands in the summer, given the hot climate, which presents power supply management challenges. The system experiences a peak of 1,004 megawatts (MW) in the summer as compared to demand around 300 MW in the winter. IID has taken steps to minimize the cost fluctuations associated with its power supply which is heavily weighted toward natural gas and the cost of meeting its summer peak.

The district’s financial performance has been stronger in the past two years following a period where financial margins tightened. Relief was provided by lower wholesale power purchase and natural gas costs, which are both large drivers of IID’s overall cost structure. As a result, IID was able to set aside $100 million in revenues from fiscal 2009 and 2010 into a rate stabilization fund (RSF). This fund will be used to offset ratepayer costs and to support capital spending over the next four years. Debt-service coverage remains strong, with debt-service coverage at over 2.0 times (x) after the deferral of rate stabilization fund revenue. However, on a cash flow basis, debt service coverage inclusive of RSF revenues was much stronger at over 4.0x in both years. As an irrigation district, there is no general fund transfer, so these coverage levels are not diluted and the excess cash flow can be invested back into the system.

The district’s informal target is to maintain a minimum of 2.0x debt-service coverage and a capital structure of at least 40%-60% equity. The financial forecast provided by IID indicates that it should continue to meet those targets over the next five years. Liquidity has grown substantially. Unrestricted reserves of $193 million (211 days operating cash) provide a healthy reserve and include the rate stabilization fund. Management has targeted keeping $100 million in working capital.

Rates are competitive and no base rate increases have been needed in the past two years. Historically, rate flexibility as measured by an ability and willingness to raise rates has been a credit concern. The district does have the ECAF in its rate structure, which is designed to recover the majority of its variable costs, including fuel and purchased power. However, the pass-through requires board action for each six-month adjustment; it is not automatic. In June 2011, the Board will consider allowing the ECAF to ‘float’ on a full cost recovery basis and consideration will be given to how frequently the adjustment will need board approval. Initially this would result in a rate decrease to customers. Fitch will look for consistency in the application of the floating ECAF when purchased power and natural gas costs begin to rise to be considered a true cost recovery component. If used in a variable mode, it has the potential to ensure greater stability in IID’s financial performance during times of expenditure pressure.

IID has a five-year capital plan estimated at $710 million, which is expected to be approximately 53% financed from debt. This projected level of borrowing will result in an increase in the electric utility’s debt burden from its current $440 million in debt outstanding. The capital improvements are needed to invest in generation assets in the service area and to invest in transmission and distribution improvements. Construction costs are financed with IID’s commercial paper program and then re-financed with long-term debt. IID is in the process of repowering El Centro Unit 3, an older natural gas unit. The repower project has an estimated budget of $248 million and will add approximately 100 MW of local capacity. The new unit, currently under construction, is anticipated to be in commercial operation by May 2012.

Senior management at IID has exhibited an usually high turnover rate in the last four years. Despite continuity in the five-member Board, the management turnover is a credit concern given the magnitude of issues for both the power and water business of IID.

Additional information is available at ‘www.fitchratings.com

In addition to the sources of information identified in Fitch’s Revenue-Supported Rating Criteria, this action was additionally informed by information from Creditscope.

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

–‘Revenue-Supported Rating Criteria’, Oct. 8, 2010;

–‘Public Power Rating Guidelines’, June 11, 2009.

For information on Build America Bonds, visit www.fitchratings.com/BABs.

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

Revenue-Supported Rating Criteria

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=564565

U.S. Public Power Rating Criteria

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=613065

ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: HTTP://FITCHRATINGS.COM/UNDERSTANDINGCREDITRATINGS. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY’S PUBLIC WEBSITE ‘WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM‘. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH’S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE ‘CODE OF CONDUCT’ SECTION OF THIS SITE.

 

By Bob Hurst

 

The good feeling that comes from being in first place is something that the Arizona Diamondbacks don’t want to stray too far from this season.

After pounding Florida 15-4 on Monday night, the Diamondbacks remained in first in the NL West, a half-game in front of San Francisco.

“We’re hot, man, really hot,” said Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, who hit a three-run homer and matched his career high with five RBIs. “It’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we keep doing it. It’s a good feeling and we’ve got to keep it going until the last day of the season.”

That might be wishful thinking, but the way the Diamondbacks have been playing lately, anything’s possible. Arizona had won seven straight going into Tuesday’s game and 13 of its last 14 games.

Arizona exploded for 19 hits in Monday’s contest, two shy of the franchise record. Justin Upton went 5-for-5 with a two-run shot to the upper deck.

Second baseman Kelly Johnson hit two home runs and tied a team record with four extra-base hits.  

Johnson was batting .429 in his last eight games and .327 with five homers and 16 RBIs in his last 13, helping Arizona overcome a 15-22 start to the season.

“This is a very confident team,” Johnson said. “A lot of momentum, a lot of just mojo, a lot of swagger. I mean, all of it, everything you’re looking for in a winning team.”

Winning isn’t something the Diamondbacks have seen a lot of in recent years. After going 82-80 in 2008, they went 70-92 in 2009 and 65-97 last season.

General Manager Kevin Towers, hired last fall after he won four division titles in 14 years as the GM in San Diego, made changes in the offseason, including signing free agent closer J.J. Putz.

Putz, who had 76 saves for Seattle in 2006-07, had not closed a game since 2008 and since having elbow surgery in 2009. But his save on Sunday at Houston extended his franchise record to 16 saves to begin a season.

And the starters have been getting stronger.

Right-hander Ian Kennedy went into Tuesday’s game on a hot streak of his own with three straight wins. He was 6-1 with a 3.01 ERA.

Joe Saunders has won two in a row after starting the year 0-5 and Josh Collmenter has been a welcome addition to the rotation with 15 straight scoreless innings to begin his career as a starter.

“Early in the year we were hitting, but we weren’t pitching,” D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Then we were pitching, but we weren’t hitting and we were fumbling around and making mistakes on the bases. We are putting things together.”

The victory on Sunday completed a 6-1 road trip for Arizona, which looked forward to continuing its winning ways at home. Since winning their first series at Dodger Stadium since 2007 on May 15, the D-Backs have swept Atlanta, Minnesota and Houston, won three of four against Colorado and split with the Padres.

Just how long can they keep this going?

“We just need to remain humble,” Gibson said. “But we’ve got a long way to go and we talked about playing good baseball and it’s hard to sustain it. Our character will continue to be tested.”

Quotable: “They only remember the 2005 team (that won the World Series). In 2020 when we come here in a wheelchair, ‘Oh, yeah, thank you.’ As soon as you leave the ballpark, they don’t care about you anymore.” — Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on Twitter, taking aim at some Sox fans.

Diamond Notes: Toronto starter Jo-Jo Reyes won his first game in 29 starts on Monday, beating Cleveland 11-1. Reyes, who pitched the first complete game of his career, avoided the mark for consecutive starts without a win. He hadn’t won since June 13, 2008 with Atlanta. Reyes was tied at 28 straight starts without a win with Matt Keough, who set the record with the A’s in 1978-79…Joakim Soria is out as closer for the Royals, at least for now. He blew his fifth save in 12 chances in Monday’s loss to the Angels…Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano is on the disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder…Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez got his 1,000th career hit in Sunday’s loss to Milwaukee…With his win over Washington on Monday, Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay won his 11th straight decision over the Expos/Nationals franchise…Mariners pitcher Doug Fister struck out a career-high nine batters in a win this week over the Orioles.  

Copyright © 2011  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

 

By Mario Conde

New numbers released last week by the State of California show the unemployment rate decreased to 11.9 percent in April, and nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 8,900 during the month, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department from two separate surveys.

In March, the state’s unemployment rate was 12.0 percent, and in April 2010, the unemployment rate was 12.4 percent. The unemployment rate is derived from a federal survey of 5,500 California households.

The EDD reports also shows that nonfarm jobs in California totaled 14,054,900 in April, an increase of 8,900 jobs over the month, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically. The survey of 42,000 California businesses measures jobs in the economy. The year-over-year change (April 2010 to April 2011) shows an increase of 144,400 jobs (up 1.0 percent).

Imperial County, however, lost over 1,300 jobs thanks to the end of the agricultural season here in the Valley. Imperial County, where the unemployment rate was 27.9% in April, created only 200 new positions in the last year.

The number of people unemployed in California was 2,143,000 – down by 33,000 over the month, and down by 111,000 compared with April of last year.

Eight industry divisions (mining and logging; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; professional and business services; educational and health services; and leisure and hospitality) posted job gains over the year, adding 210,300 jobs.

Professional and business services posted the largest gain on a numerical basis, adding 58,800 jobs (up 2.9 percent). Information posted the largest gain on a percentage basis, up by 7.0 percent (an increase of 29,200 jobs).

 

By Mario Conde

The County Board of Supervisors approved the first draft of a County wide ordinance to will deal with tire dumping.

The illegal Dumping Taskforce was created by the Board of Supervisors to convene a broad group of stakeholders to reduce and remediate illegal dumping in Imperial County. The taskforce is chaired by Supervisor Gary Waytt and Co-chaired by Supervisor Mike Kelley. In a report given by Robin Hodgkin, Director of Public Health, she stated that the drafting of this ordinance is the culmination of extensive discussion among the Taskforce members and additional stakeholders including tire retailers and tire service providers. The goal in proposing an ordinance is to reduce illegal waste tire dumping along public roadways, canals, and on private lands within the cities and unincorporated areas of the County.

The three objectives of this ordinance are to establish countywide mandatory waste tire collection to prevent individuals from being able to avoid the cost of legal disposal a tire service providers and then illegally dumping the tires. To establish a tire disposal fee to be deposited into a dedicated fund to be utilized by the County to augment the cleanup, abatement, removal, disposal or other remedial action related to illegally disposed tires.

Other key areas of this draft ordinance is that tire providers would be required to assess at least a set minimum recycling fee for each used or waste tire removed from vehicle. Most tires would be subject to the minimum recycling fee with the exception of off-road tire, recapped and reinstalled tires, and motorized wheelchair tires. The mandatory tire recycling fee would be collected by the tire service provider regardless of whether the tire is kept by the customer or is left with the tire service provider. The ordinance does not require that the removed tire be left with the tire service provider.

The Imperial County Health Department is in charge of the enforcement for the County and the department has made 276 inspections in the last half of year of used waste tires facilities to ensure proper management and transport tires. “There are public health issues caused by waste tires such as fire hazards and threat to air and water quality since ignited tires can release hazardous gases, heavy metals, and oils.” Said Danny Silva, County Environmental Compliance Technician. Silva said that on Kloke and HWY 98 in Calexico there is a lot of illegal dumping of tires in the area.

 Silva added that waste tires create a habitat of breeding ground rodents, insects or other vermin that carry diseases and increased breeding of mosquitoes that can transmit the West Nile Virus due to the shape and impermeability of tires that can hold water for long periods of time. The County of Imperial passed an ordinance in 2009 that punish individuals to dump waste on right-of-way an infraction of $250. A second violation will be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in county jail for not more than six months and a citation of no more than $1,000 dollars.

 
%d bloggers like this: