As I walk along Main Street in the business district of downtown Brawley, I wonder how we as citizens can help stop the deterioration. Many of the shops are empty, abandoned, or completely burnt out.
Could service groups help with cleanup or light painting?Â Can you use city code to force these owners to clean and paint?
I have talked with the city. Their answer is basically â€œNo, we canâ€™t tell business owners what to do.â€
OK, unless they are a beef plant or some other business trying to start up in Brawley. Then, they are all about code.Â Council members have their answers down pat. â€œItâ€™s up to the staff,â€ or â€œwe donâ€™t know anything about the technical side of the permitting process.â€
â€œIt’s our job to protect the citizens and we donâ€™t want another million dollar fine,â€ they say.Â Itâ€™s too â€œscienceyâ€ to explain to me. I wouldnâ€™t understand.
Itâ€™s hard to let the public know what is really going on when you canâ€™t get straight answers.
We have a council that is great at ribbon cuttings and glad-handing, but are they really trying to help businesses get what they need?Â Maybe they should set policy for a more favorable environment for new business.Â We don’t need the mayor’s protection.
The county gave the beef plant a $2.5 million dollar loan. IID gave them a $2.5 million dollar grant.Â It is hard to tell what the city is doing.
This beef plant is only going to discharge one-tenth of the wastewater that the previous plant did.
One World BeefÂ has spent a large portion of this start-up money on legal issues with the city and their highly paid consultant. This is money that could have helped with furthering the business in getting the plant up and running.
The businesses that are tied to the beef plant are many and the financialÂ implications are in the millions, if only the plant could get what they need from the city to go into production.
The city claims the beef plant is not providingÂ the information they need to green-lightÂ the cement retaining walls for their bio-filter system.Â The beef plant claims that the city keeps â€œmoving the goal posts.â€ They give the city what it requests and more paperwork is demanded.
The city sent out a Friday night â€œnews dump,â€ a press release denying the beef plant the wastewater discharge permit to use the city’s wastewater facility. Such news dumps are sent out late Friday to avoid media scrutiny and let the news cool over the weekend. It is usually not good news.
The Regional Water Board said they are totally satisfied with the beef plant, which has met every requirement for safety and odor managementÂ so far. The plant is doing everything right and is safe to begin production. The retention ponds are clean and donâ€™t smell, and it is safe to discharge the wastewater to the cityâ€™s newly expanded wastewater facility that is currently operating well below capacity. The Regional Water Board is not happy the city mentioned them in their press release as a reason to not grantÂ the permit.
The beef plant has received their CEQA environmental study and permit.
The city would benefit by the fees paid by the beef plant for water and wastewater, the citizens by the jobs, and the ancillary businesses by the work.
The staff handles the permitting process, but the buck stops with the mayor who is the spokesperson for the city.Â TheÂ city councilÂ needs to be held accountable soon or Brawley will wither and die as an opportunity for future business growth.