Santo Tomas Public Meeting

Chris Martinez, assistant manager for Las Palmas, speaks during an informational meeting held February 4 at Rodney Auditorium for vendors affected by the Santo Tomas fire. 

CALEXICO – Calexico's Economic Development Director Miguel Figueroa provided updated information at San Diego State University's Rodney Auditorium to vendors affected by the Santo Tomas fire that occurred on the night of December 8, 2018.

Figueroa discussed possible loans offered to small businesses under the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA), temporary forms of sales operations, and information on the causes of the fire provided by the Calexico Fire Department that will be posted to the public on February 8, 2019.

On January 11, the city of Calexico approved a request from Santo Tomas owner to allow the vendor to re-open the site for a period of three months (subject to extension by the city) under the following conditions: to open rows south of Row J during daylight hours only, until electric power is restored pursuant to city and Imperial Irrigation District members; and keep rows north of Row J closed and fenced off until all reports are completed.

Under these options, vendors will use the vacant space that was affected by the fire as a sales area where the authorized temporary use permit may be used from December 19, 2018, raise construction spaces for points of sale where it allows the storage of products. These spaces must comply with the requirements for the construction of the local law of the city, and utilize storage containers inside the property to meet the request to load and unload sales products.

According to the SBA website, the organization offers Disaster Assistance to California Businesses affected by the Santo Tomas Fire that provides low-interest federal disaster loans available to businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations whose property was damaged or destroyed by disaster.

Businesses may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. SBA also offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs.

Applicants may apply online on the SBA website, and the deadline to do so is March 25, 2019. 

Vendors were given the opportunity to ask the city council questions regarding their concerns about economic status and loan requirements. Chris Martinez, assistant manager of Las Palmas, has opened doors for vendors to sell merchandise in Las Palmas, but vendors said they are asking for answers to be made immediately.

“Our main concern is regarding the requisites to open, but we would like to know the detail of what needs to be fixed, because the owner is not communicating with us,” said vendor Brianda Rodriguez. “Is the owner willing to invest money in repairs or give us an idea of how long it will take to repair electricity?”

“We cannot speak for the owner, and we do not know if he is going to agree with these requisites given to Santo Tomas,” said vendor Lorena Rodriguez.

“We are waiting for the steps Santo Tomas administration is willing to provide, and it is one of the biggest reasons why we have these discussions,” said Figueroa. “It’s not about pointing fingers, but what measures we can provide to listen to vendors.”  

“What measures of prevention will be implemented so that this does not happen again?” said vendor Aracely Ceballos.

“A lot of structures don’t meet code. Those structures need to be brought up to code and continue to stay that way,” said David Dale, Calexico city manager. “We will be inspecting once a year, and electricity is another item that we have set in full engineering plans to ensure that what is going to be constructed meets the code. Our number one goal is public safety.”

“I understand that you want concrete answers," said Bill Hodge, council member. "I feel that its not our intention that we have backed these people into a corner and they don’t have any breathing space. Storage costs a lot of money, and right now, they don’t have a lot of money. They need to work to get back on their feet. I urge us to find a way that we can temporarily suspend the loading and unloading, so these people have some savings and profit they can reinvest. That would be highly appreciated.”

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