CALIPATRIA — With its many shortcomings and lack of amenities in relation to the rest of the Valley, it’s easy to forget about the Northend communities of the Imperial Valley. The northend, composed of Bombay Beach, Niland, Calipatria, Westmorland and parts of Brawley, has seen a drastic decrease of population and lack of business entering the area, which makes living in these communities a challenge.
The formation of the Northend Action Council (NAC), which will be working directly with IID’s northend representative Ryan Kelley, will bring the voice of the people back into their communities.
“The idea of this group is to bring additional focus, funding and community involvement to the northend,” said Brooks Hamby, who serves as the council’s secretary and treasurer. “If we unite together on a shared number of goals for the improvement of these communities, we believe that the northend has a lot to provide for the future of the Valley."
Hamby, representing Brawley, joins the council with Chris Froelich of Calipatria, who serves as the council’s president. Other council members include Sonia Herbert of Bombay Beach, and Diana Juarez and Nellie Perez, both from Niland.
In addition to their introductory meeting, the NAC also informed the public of some community programs aimed to get families out of the heat during the summer.
Crystal Duran spoke on behalf of the Imperial County Free Library, which operates four libraries across the Valley, one of which is in Calipatria.
Esperanza Colio-Warren informed community members of the County Public Benefit Funds & Grant Support program. The Imperial County Board of Supervisors created the program to distribute funding to potential projects and programs that benefit the Imperial Valley. These projects include, but are not limited to, road infrastructure, job creation, economic development and enhancement to the quality of life in neighboring communities. This program is funded through solar projects throughout the Valley.
The majority of the NAC’s meeting was devoted to the growing issue facing northend residents: high water bills.
Calipatria and Niland are the only communities in the Imperial Valley that obtain water from a third-party distributor. It is unclear exactly when it happened, but Golden State Water Company took over distributing water for northend residents when the city of Calipatria could not adequately do so.
The consequences of that decision affect citizens today; Calipatria/Niland pays over $2,145 per acre/foot, compared to the county average of just over $1,070 per acre/foot.
Residents like Aristeo Ojeda of Niland are fed up with the excuses made by the city and look for solutions to be made by this council.
“I want to know what kind of plan they are going to have for Niland,” said Ojeda. “It’s very important because we need money in order to bring back the town. Everybody is leaving Niland and it’s hard to get people to live in these communities.”
Hamby acknowledges how community members might feel left out, but says the work done by this council will affect change in the northend.
“A lot of people have the perception that the Valley ends at Brawley,” said Hamby. “We want to show that these communities have a lot to offer and it’s our job to let these people know they are not forgotten.”
The next meeting for the Northend Action Council will be held at 6 p.m Monday, August 12, at the Bombay Beach Community Center.