EL CENTRO – Dressed in a baseball jersey and cap, Mayor Jason Jackson reported that the state of El Centro is strong and is expected to grow stronger this coming year with big projects on the horizon, during his state of the city address Thursday morning at the Cinemark Imperial Valley Mall theatre.
Adding a twist to the traditional State of the City Address, this year’s theme “Hit It Out Of The Park” brought dozens of Valley-wide elected officials and residents who followed the theme by taking the day off from traditional suits and ties and dressing in jerseys, caps and sneakers.
Full to capacity, the Cinemark Theatre echoed as Jackson listed the city’s numerous accomplishments this past year during his 20-minute powerpoint presentation.
One of the most popular changes was the addition of two canine patrol officers to the police department in 2015 that assisted with numerous cases.
“In 2015 our police department accomplished 65 assists (to) outside agencies, 47 apprehensions, 29 building searches, 194 detections, 18 public demonstrations, 3 tracking, and canine unit seizures of 35.55 pounds of cocaine, 2.22 grams of heroin, 54.42 pounds of methamphetamine, 15,767.42 pounds of marijuana and one firearm,” said Jackson. “These are the things that make our streets safer and really does so much service to our community, youth, and the overall quality of life for the citizens of El Centro.”
Jackson emphasized the numerous street repairs the Public Works Department has accomplished that include sidewalk and disability ramp improvements, and numerous street overlays.
Fourteen new businesses opened or will soon have grand openings including Aldi Market, Ross Department Store, Petsmart, Q-Nails, Southwest Security, Joseph Market, Tacos Marlyn, Deli Haus, UpSpace, Auntie Anne’s, A’Gaci, Simply@Home, T-Mobile and State Street Coffee Shop. Nine future businesses include Buffalo Wild Wings, CVS Pharmacy, Planet Fitness, Hampton Inn, Los Cabos Restaurant, Ashley Home Furniture, Deluxe Vapes, Coyne Powersports and Town Center Village.
Jackson said El Centro is continuing its Sister City agreement with Mexicali, adding a tremendous value as they strive to bring culture and economic support to both cities.
The city recently received an award from the American Public Works Association for the newly-constructed Sidewinder Skatepark on 6th and Adams streets.
“We are proud to have received this award for our Engineering and Public Works for our Sidewinder Skatepark,” said Jackson. “This award was competing against other cities like San Diego, National City, Carlsbad – all these cities have great projects, yet our project shined above all those.”
The fire department also added a new fire engine and a new command truck in addition to life-saving heart monitors and breathing apparatus.
Jackson said El Centro is undergoing various constructions that include the Dogwood Bridge widening, Euclid Avenue rehabilitation, putting North Date Canal underground, downtown street lighting, an extension of Imperial Avenue, installation of playground, shades and tri-active exercise equipment at Bucklin Park and the old library demolition.
Future projects include a Ross Avenue rehabilitation, La Brucherie Road widening, a new library feasibility study, a Veterans Memorial at Bucklin Park, Bucklin Park pathway lighting and several lighted crosswalks.
“I want to highlight that our city staff search out for any kind of grant,” said Jackson. “We stretch out every dollar in this city and utilizing the grants available to us is something our staff has been very successful in obtaining.”
According to Jackson, larger future projects include a new state-of-the-art aquatic center, an 80-acre sports field complex, a new library and hopefully, a new police department facility.
“In order to bring this project to fruition, I am proposing a slight increase to our city sales tax and a three percent hotel occupancy tax increase,” said Jackson. “Although these tax increases will go nearly unnoticed, the improvements to the city of El Centro will add an increase to the overall quality of life that will be greatly noticed. I ask our citizens to support this measure and my colleagues to make this happen.”
El Centro currently has an eight percent sales tax that would increase half a percent, and the hotel occupancy tax would increase from 10 percent to the proposed 13 percent during the November elections.
“As you can see, El Centro has a lot going on,” said Jackson. “The city of El Centro will continue to be a primary concern for myself, our city council and our staff. The city of El Centro greatly values its businesses and residents. Our goal is to increase the quality of life to the very best it can be.”
City council members will meet with the El Centro Chamber of Commerce this week to discuss the possible sales tax increase.