From the daily archives: Wednesday, August 21, 2013

By Mario Conde

The Calexico City Council took the final step in moving forward with the construction of the Gran Plaza Outlet Center.

The project that has been ten years in the making established a Community Facilities District thanks to the approval of three resolutions. The cost associated with the formation of the District, including the cost of the CFD’s advisors, special tax consultant and legal assistance have all been paid by Corsair, LLC. When issued, the CFD bonds will be limited obligations of the District, payable solely from the special tax revenue collected by the District. The ultimate security for the Bonds is the Gran Plaza “real estate” as such neither the full faith or credit, nor the taxing power of the City, County or State, or any other political subdivision is pledged to the repayment of the Bonds.

The CFD’s was established as a petition from the developer to designate two improvement areas therein to be known as “Improvement Areas.”

The owner requested that the City Council authorize the issuance of bonds in Improvement Area 1 and Improvement Area 2 in the principal amount not to exceed $20,000,000 for each of the Improvement Areas. The owner also requested that the City Council authorize the levy of special taxes on each improvement area to pay for the cost of the facilities and for those associated with the formation of the district and for engineering, planning and other related costs. The Gran Plaza Developers will need CFD Bonds proceeds to complete certain public improvements in order to open their proposed phase one 250,000 square foot shopping center in the City. The public improvements, upon their completion, will not only benefit the shopping center, but also benefit the Calexico International Airport as well as improving the access to other properties west of the shopping center.

City Consultant Marshall Lynn told the council that in the “unlikely event” that insufficient funds are not available to pay for debt service, the trustee will have the right to foreclose upon the Corsair property. It is fully expected that there will be a lien to value ratio of over 4 to 1 which means that in “worst case” fire sale situation, that there will be sufficient value to pay off the Bonds if there is a default.

Lynn said that this project is a great opportunity for Calexico bring much needed revenue to the City. Lynn added that the projections estimate when Gran Plaza and the Power Center are completed it in 2016 it will bring $3 million annually to the City of Calexico.

Councilman Joong Kim said to be opposed to the bonds since its would be a subsidy for the developer while the City is neglecting the local business people since they will be affected by the opening of the outlet center. Kim mentioned that by approving this, it would be like a “gift of public funds” for the developer.

Mayor Pro Tem John Moreno answered to Kim that there was a vote years ago in Calexico where Calexico residents voted for Walmart to expand and have a grocery store. Moreno mentioned that there was a concern with some merchants saying that it would affect their business but that didn’t happen.

Councilman Luis Castro agreed with Kim saying that is not againts progress but does not agree with the bonds and the lack of support for local business.

In the end, the Council voted 3-2 to approve the CFD District and the drew the applause from the members for the public.


By Mario Conde

The Calexico City Council will look for grant funding to hire new dispatchers for the City of Calexico.

The City of Calexico is applying for grant monies thru the IID Local Entity to be able to partially fund two emergency service dispatcher positions. The application was prepared by Lt. Gonzalo Gerardo and Economic Development Director Juila Osuna and are hoping funding in the amount of $150,000. The City of Calexico has had an average of 35,000 calls during 2012.

In a memo July 12, 2012 to Measure H Committee from former Police Chief Jin Neujahr stated, “the dispatch center is severely understaffed and the potential for inadequate services was possible due to the lack of staffing. The Calexico Public Safety Communications Center provides emergency communications for the Calexico Police Department, Calexico Fire Department and Calexico 911 Emergency System. This is a 24/7 hours day a week/365 day per year operation. The communications center routinely handles emergency police, fire ambulance/medical aid calls and a mountain of information to requesting callers. The communication center averages between 30,000 to 35,000 calls for service annually.”

The item was discussed by the Measure H commission one year ago where former Chief Jim Neujahr and then Councilmember Bill Hodge requested funding but the discussion on that meeting and by the request of then Mayor Daniel Romero was to hold onto that issues and wait for a response from city administration.

The Public Safety Dispatcher additionally deals with unusual incidents that result from the close proximity to the US/Mexico Border which is unique. At any given time dispatch staff has reached as low as 6 staff members to a high of 11 staff members. Currently the dispatch center has a total of 6 dispatchers, 2 Community Service Officers and 1 Supervisor that serve as dispatchers to cover staffing needs. Our Border City continues to grow a rapid pace and these positions are greatly needed, said Lt. Gonzalo Gerardo.

The grant is due August 30, 2012 and award notification will be by January 1, 2014.  The City of Calexico is applying for this grant with the IID Local Entity to be able to hire two dispatchers and share 50% of the cost for two years. These positions will be provide job creation, workforce development, educational services and social welfare to the City. Calexico Police Chief Pompeyo Tabarez said that if they are able to secure the funding for the dispatchers they will hire them for two years and if the economy and revenues of the City they will hire him through the city. Tabarez added that if they are successful it will eliminate overtime issues with dispatchers since they are understaffed at the moment.

The Council also approved a request from Chief Tabarez in requesting bids to purchase three fully-equipped unmarked police cars. These cars will replace a 2007 seized vehicle with high mileage currently being used by the Chief. The other two vehicles will replace high mileage vehicles used in the investigative division.

“The vehicles currently being used are unreliable, and prone to break down, thus creating unwarranted expenses for repairs and maintenance.” Tabarez said. The vehicles will be paid Asset Forfeiture Funds.

Finally, the Calexico City Council approved a recommendation by Chief Tabarez to enter into an MOU agreement with Immigration Costumes Enforcement (ICE) for assisting them in drug trafficking, human trafficking, and organized crime at the border.


By Mario Conde

The Calexico City Council denied a proposal to hire a grant writer for the City of Calexico at their Tuesday meeting.

At a previous meeting, Mayor Bill Hodge proposed to hire a grant writer for the City since he felt they need to be more aggressive in bringing funding to the city. The council decided to give direction to create a job description to hire a grant writer for six months limited term position that will also be an assistant to the City Manager.

City staff sent two options to the City Council and the potential amount for the grant writer would be $4,589 to $5,578 monthly. Councilman Joong Kim agreed that the City need to have a grant writer but asked to be extended to one year instead of six months since it’s a very short time and increase the salary to $80,000.

Mayor Pro Tem John Moreno said that the idea was good but reminded Hodge that the City is in a hiring freeze and asked him to reconsider his proposal.

“The idea is good; it’s just that the timing is not the right one.” Moreno said.

Councilwoman Maritza Hurtado also opposed this proposal since the city needs to be conservative in what they spend since the city is still recuperating from the financial crisis. She also questioned that the subcommittee that Hodge and Kim participated to create this job description included Councilman Luis Castro and that makes it an illegal meeting and Hurtado called it a “backroom deal.”

City Employee Union President Lorena Minor-Montes also expresses her disapproval for this grant writer since the City has seen layoffs, and early retirements from employees and now they are overworked. She asked the council not to approve this item.

Mayor Hodge called for the vote but there was no agreement in Kim’s proposal to extend it one year, or, the original six month proposal.

Mayor Bill Hodge concluded by saying that the City needed to be aggressive in grand writing and be like the other cities where they have a grant writer on the team that has help them in areas such as parks and other areas.

“The reason why the City is like it is right now is because we have no grant writer on board. Having one is a no-brainer.” Hodge said.

Early this year City Manager Oscar Rodriquez asked for direction to seek a grant writing firm but the Council back then decided to wait until they had their team building seminar to decide in what areas would they focus their needs for grants. The Council never discuss that item again or gave direction to seek a grant writing firm.

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