Board of Supervisors Take Action
By Mario Conde
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors discussed several action items regarding the Gateway County Service Area at their regular Tuesday meeting.
Two items related to the Gateway to the Americas, an industrial and retail located at the Calexico/Mexicali East Port of Entry.
The Imperial County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) approved the formation of a new County Service Area known as the Gateway County Service Area in 1997, and designated the Imperial County Board of Supervisors as the conducting authority to continue the CSA formation process. The Gateway CSA is compromised of approximately 1,775 acres adjacent to the International Border with Mexico and approximately six miles east of the City of Calexico.
The CSA was established to construct, operate and maintain various facilities in the Gateway planning area, which was proposed as a master-planned commercial and industrial complex designed to capitalize on the economic benefits of the adjacent International Port of Entry.
The County Department of Public Works and property owners in the Gateway CSA wish to establish an advisory committee compromised of persons, businesses owners and organizations representing the users of the CSA. The official title of the committee shall be The Gateway Service Area Advisory Committee. The Committee will serve as a channel of communications regarding Gateway CSA matters, between the Gateway property owners and other involved in the CSA; and County officials.
The Committee will serve as an advisory body to the Board of Supervisors by discussing include projects that will make the Gateway more affordable, usable, and beneficial for current owners, recommend projects or efforts to encourage development in the Gateway, review the operation budget, prioritize the capital improvement plan and budget, and make recommendations regarding rate studies and rate setting.
“The Gateway owners all agree to form an advisory committee for this development and will provide a conduit between the county and the owners,” said John Gay, Imperial County director of public works. Supervisor Ray Castillo suggested that now that they are working with the Gateway CSA, that other advisory boards be created in order to attend the needs of special districts in the county.
Land owner John Pierre Menvielle supported the advisory committee since it would help straighten up some issues and move the Gateway forward.
“The Gateway has a tremendous amount of potential and we need to move forward now that all the tenants are in favor of this,” Menvielle said. “This brings transparency and gives the landowners the opportunity to be part of the decision making process and the money that is spent out there.”
In related news, the BOS discussed the awarding of a contract agreement to M-Rea Engineering, Inc. for the replacement of Two Lift Station Pumps and Pump Hardware at Gateway to the Americas. The item was placed on consent calendar and was asked to be pulled by Menvielle.
The proposed improvements will encompass the removal of existing pumps and hardware that have continually failed due to corrosion and deterioration. Public Works Director John Gay said the current pump and hardware have been in place for 20 years and have outlived their projected life span. The project will bring the electrical panel up to current code standards and will improve corrosion resistance in the wet well.
“If we have two spills we will have to deal with the regional board and those also can be cost factors, if we do not move forward it will be very problematic for the county.” Gay said.
Menville asked for this item to be pulled for discussion because back in 2014, he said, the county had $199,000 in improvements that needed to be done to the water part at the CSA and was approved on consent calendar without talking with the landowners.
“We didn’t know that happened until we received our tax bill and they tried to bill the two hundred thousand against all of the Gateway owners in one year.” Menville told the board and said it’s resolved by agreeing to a five year payoff.
Menville said that they have been billed more than the actual cost of operation and the money has been accumulated to going to an account.
“There is an additional $700,000 that the land owners have been overcharged and we want that money back.” Menville said. “Back in 2014 the county needed $199,000 to upgrade the water plant so what they did is instead of using one million that was sitting out there, they billed the land owners.
My question is why didn’t they use that money to pay the $199,000 instead of billing the landowners when they hand landowner money sitting in there?” County CEO Ralph Cordova mentioned the Gateway of the Americas was a challenge to get started and maintain it and need to move forward with fixing the lift station.
“If we already have two spills and doesn’t get fix, someone will have to pay for it. The life cycle of some of the stations is coming to an end and we need to do something before we are called to before the Regional Control Board.” Cordova told the board.
Cordova suggested having a meeting with Menville and the landowners to have a discussion with them to resolve the money issue. The County Board agreed to have a special meeting this Thursday morning to discuss the awarding of the contract and clear things up with the landowners.
The Board of Supervisors met in special session on February 16 and the final action was to utilize the funds to improve the lift station as agreed with the County and the property owners. It was also agreed that the county and the landowners will re-negotiate down the road if they are getting refund of their money or will keep it in the county’s coffers for further upgrades.