From the daily archives: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

By Mario Conde

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors will send a letter to the Housing and Community Development opposing some changes pertaining Enterprise Zones.

The Housing and Community Development of the State of California, which administers the Enterprise Zone program for the State has recently proposed changes to rules governing the EZ program, which could have dramatic negative effects to businesses located in Imperial County currently participating, or wish to do so in the future. At the last meeting of the Imperial Valley Enterprise Zone JPA, it was requested that member agencies submit letter of comment letters to HCD indicating their objection to the proposed changes in the program.

The County of Imperial is concern about the changes regarding the designation of the Targeted Employment Area. The Board of Supervisors believe the regulations unjustly target rural communities such as Imperial Valley by reversing HCD policy that allowed census tracts to qualify by comparing income or state median income.

The language in the proposed new regulations only allow census tract to be deem eligible as compared to County median income. The net result 3 of the 5 current census tract used by the Imperial Valley EZ and 3 out of 5 for the Calexico-County Enterprise Zone will no longer be eligible. The County argues that if they were to be compared to the state’s median income of $61, 632 instead of the Imperial County’s median income of  $39,402 all 10 tracts would still be eligible. The County believes that these changes will make it difficult for business to qualify and take advantages of the two enterprise zones in Imperial County. The County suggested in the letter to have the legislature to update the enterprise zone statue, retaining the intent of the program not penalize rural areas like Imperial County.

“This will significantly affect businesses in Imperial County that take advantage of the Enterprise Zone Program, in particular small, locally owned businesses.” County Chairman Ray Castillo stated in the letter.

Imperial Valley Enterprise Zone Manager Daniel Fitzgerald said the proposed changes to the TEA, limitation on “retro” vouchering to only one year, and increased documentation requirements to demonstrate TEA residency will severely limit the ability of businesses to use the Enterprise Zone program. Fitzgerald said the Assemblyman Manuel Perez has introduced legislation to eliminate these proposed changes and bring it back to the legislature. Deputy CEO Andy Horne added that is a backdoor approach to reduce the Enterprise Zone program.

The Board approved this item unanimously by a vote of 4-0. Supervisor Mike Kelley was absent from this meeting.

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By Mario Conde

The County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution in support of a grant for drainage improvements in Seeley.

The approval of this resolution is to submit a grant application for Proposition 84 fund through the Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. Along with this action, the Board authorized the County Share of Payment for Grant Writer and use the City of Imperial as the lead agency for the Grant, to file the application and execute the agreement with the State of California for Implementation of the grant.

County Public Works Director Bill Burnett said that the IRWMP Project Work Group, as its January 10, 2013 meeting, reviewed a list of twenty prioritized projects for the Imperial region. The group agreed to involve as many agencies as possible in the application, and will compete against other regions for $5.24 million in grants funds.

The County’s project, Drainage Improvement in the Township of Seeley, was one of the projects chosen. “The goal of this project is to provide the Township of Seeley with much needed drainage infrastructure.” Burnett said.

The estimated cost of the project is $1,916 795. The County will request a match waiver, which is allowed by the grant, because of Seeley is classified as a Disadvantage Community. Should the waiver not be approved, the grant requires a 25% match, in which case the grant will fund $1,437,597, and the County’s match will be $479,198.  Funds for the match, if needed, will come for the Highway Users Tax Account funds.

Burnett added that the members have agreed to hire a grant writer in order to produce the grant funding, since the other two competing regions already have grant writers on board, and because of the fast approaching grand deadline set for March 29. The City of Imperial agreed to be the lead agency for the Grant application and administration. The City also agreed to circulate the Request for Proposal for a grant writer. The affected agencies agreed to share the funding responsibility for the grant writer.

The chosen grant writing services firm was Townsend Public Affairs. The County’s prorated cost for the grant writer will be in an amount not exceed $5,000.

Supervisor Jack Terrazas inquired that if having City of Imperial as the lead agency will affect the grant since Seeley is a disadvantage community. City Manager Marlene Best said that it will not affect since the grant is targeted to Seeley and they will just be the lead agency in this process. Best mentioned that this is a very competitive grant and the County will compete with Coachella Valley and Mojave for these funds.

The Board approved this resolution with unanimous vote.

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