CALEXICO – Mayor Joong S. Kim did not shy away from the numerous challenges fronting Calexico during the State of the City address, and assured city resident the worst was over and asked they work together to face the city’s future as a united community.
Kim, in his first term as mayor, told the attendees gathered at the Calexico Fernando “Nene” Torres Council Chambers on Thursday, April 21, the city had faced many challenges in the past year, both fiscally and administratively.
“These challenges have slowly chipped away at morale,” said Kim. “We have learned from our mistakes and are putting a system in place to prevent this from happening in the future.”
Referring to the $6 million financial general fund shortfall, Kim said the finance department had re-constructed two years of financial records to date and the audit had been completed resulting in the reduction of the city’s reserve funds.
“The city has completed and made a transition to a new and sophisticated accounting software (Springbrook) so city records are posted on one single software and avoid any future discrepancies in our books,” said Kim.
Emphasizing convenience, Kim said the Calexico residents and business owners now have the option to make online payments for water bills and business licenses with the newly installed Starnik utility tracker system.
Finance goals for the upcoming year include providing timely, accurate and transparent financial information.
“We will manage revenue and budget in order to safeguard the city’s assets and pay employees and vendors on a timely manner,” said Kim.
“Our focus at this time is to pass the annual audit requirement and establish the parameters of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 budgets to maximize the use of public resources and provide through city departments the basis services required by our community,” said Kim.
The police reserve program was initiated and recruitment to fill the vacant ranks of the reserve police officers has been successful.
“Currently, there are two reserve police officers sworn in and six are going through background checks,” said Kim. “Additionally, our officers are being trained in the body cam policy. The body cameras will be issued once the entire sworn staff has been briefed with the department’s policy.”
Recognizing the police administration’s help with the recovery of funds, Kim said approximately $12,460 made up of four checks had been found and turned over to finance director Eduardo Gutierrez in addition to an additional $68,700 in unclaimed training reimbursements.
Despite having a lean budget and five vacancies, the fire department managed to operate efficiently, responding not only to local, but also out-of-county calls, in addition attempting to backfill personnel to maintain minimum staffing levels throughout the year.
“The call volume in the city continues to increase every year, surpassing the 4,000 mark last year, making it very challenging to keep up with the demand for services,” said Kim.
“Fire Station 1 is in dire need of replacement. The department’s facility’s team, along with its consultants, have determined our facility needs, possible locations based on time and travel study, and are currently working with the city management on how to best utilize the $7.5 million bond passed by the council a few years ago,” said Kim.
Bringing much needed services to the homeless, approximately 110 individuals received services and mental health referrals. This was a coordinated effort from Calexico, Imperial County Mental Health, Catholic Charities, Neighborhood House, and other firms.
The housing department provided rental assistance to 37 families to prevent potential homelessness caused by eviction of tenants.
“Construction was completed for the Villa Primavera Apartments, which were funded through the collaborative efforts of the City, State, and a private company with $5.1 million received through grants,” said Kim. “The apartments have 48 units and provide affordable housing for low/moderate income families, with 17 units set aside specifically for households with developmental disabilities that are being managed by the Regional Center.”
New businesses in Calexico include Panda Express and Aldi, the expansion of Gran Plaza Outlets and the renewal of the old Kmart building.
The Housing and Economic Development division’s goals for the upcoming year included helping first time home buyers and small business technical assistance programs, complete webpages, applying for future grants including the Imperial Valley Community Benefit grants (County of Imperial) and design new marketing /promotional materials.
The Enrique Camarena Public Library implemented an early learning program “let’s get ready to read” offering baby time for children up to two years of age twice per month and “one thousand books before kindergarten” and opened “Veteran’s Connect at the Library” to provide veterans and families employment information, education, housing, and benefits.
Promoting art and music, the Calexico Cultural Arts Center developed various programs such as, “Artist of the Month,” music concerts, and art walks.
City parks, including Heber Park, Rockwood Plaza Park and Cortez Park, will be rehabilitated with grants the city has received.
Heber Park is undergoing replacement and installation of playground equipment, canopy, safety surfacing, trash receptacles, benches and automated irrigation system. Work is scheduled to be completed by June.
Rockwood Plaza Park is also undergoing replacement and installation of playground equipment, canopy, safety surfacing, trash receptacles, benches and improvements to the restrooms. Work is scheduled to be completed by June.
Cortez Park will undergo replacement of basketball court backboards, goals, lighting and resurface court areas, rehabilitation of restroom facilities, installation of automated irrigation system and the replacement of picnic shades and tables. Estimated completion date is June 30, 2017.
“The City continues to move forward, despite the challenges,” said Kim in closing. “There will be additional changes required in the upcoming future as our audits are completed and a balanced budget will need to be adopted. Despite the frustration and fear that change can bring, we must look at it as an opportunity to grow and become more efficient and knowledgeable. We all must work together to ensure that Calexico continues to progress and its people are given a better quality of life in our community.”
Following the State of the City Address, council members, distinguished guests and attendees made their way to the lobby area where the city celebrated their 108th Anniversary with finger foods and cake.
Additionally, numerous citizens and employees received recognition for their contribution to the city’s growth a safety.[envira-gallery id=”76120″]