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Holtville 2019 Top News Stories

2019 Top News Stories Countdown

5. Emergency Responder’s Drill

Relying on the time-worn adage of an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure, the Holtville Fire Department organized multiple agencies in an active shooter drill during Easter break at Holtville High School.

It was good preparation, explained Fire Chief Alex Silva. He invited 79 staff from El Centro Police, Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, Naval Air Station El Centro Fire Department, Red Cross and Sheriff’s Explorers to a rescue drill on April 22. Two blocks surrounding the school were blocked off and residents were informed by fliers.

A mock victim is loaded into an ambulance during a mass casualty drill held on April 22 at Holtville High School.
A mock victim is loaded into an ambulance during a mass casualty drill held on April 22 at Holtville High School. | File Photo

“The high school is a great venue because there’s so many buildings and it adds authenticity,” emphasized Sheriff’s Sgt. Jorge Cabanillas.

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Travis Layton, an Olive Street neighbor, said he was O.K. with the exercise and if the drill saves one life, it is all for the best.

Giselle Anguiano, a Central Union High School Explorer who plans to train as a police dispatcher, noted the palpable realism when SWAT teams barked out orders. It made her admire them more, she said, because they move so fast and made sure everybody is safe.

Det. Adrian Chilpa, Explorers trainer, cautioned emergency outcomes may be far worse if the multiple agencies did not coordinate tactics.

“We need as much experience as possible,” he stressed.

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4. Holtville Fire Department Revives Explorers

Alerted to interest among high school students about becoming a firefighter or an emergency medical technician, yet finding youth lack knowledge on the process, Fire Chief Silva decided to relaunch the Fire Explorers in the summer. Silva placed Raylene Tapiceria, a firefighter for just a year, in charge of guiding new recruits.

Tapiceria grew up in Niland across from the fire station where she observed firefighters doing agility training and wondered if she would have the skills to meet fire department standards.

“I always wanted to give back to community and help others,” she admitted.

A first meeting was held on July 27 at Holtville fire’s station at 549 Fern Ave. Six candidates between 14 and 18 attended with parents. The aim was get students at least 18 years old into the Imperial Valley College Fire Academy.

The focus is teaching young adults fire science technique along with emergency medical services. Cadets also acquire discipline, self esteem and community involvement. High school students can earn credit for community-service hours, required in order to graduate.

Assisting Tapiceria were American Medical Response personnel offering emergency medical service training when paramedics are not on call. The recruits were to be instructed in hands-on firefighting tasks and rescue procedures.

“All of us at the fire department are so excited to see to Explorers get going again,” said Tapiceria.

3. Holtville American Legion Post 138 Recognizes Auxiliary Milestone

The 100th anniversary is a proud milestone to achieve and there is probably no more deserving organization worthy of recognition than the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Unit 138 of Holtville. One of the world’s largest patriotic organizations, pointed out Karen Gibbs, president of Unit 138, the Auxiliary has 600,000 members while its affiliate, the American Legion, has two million.

“Celebrate 100 years with ice cream, cake and punch,” said Gibbs, as she invited the public to the Nov. 16 extravaganza at the American Legion hall, 275 W. Sixth Street. “American Legion members will bring memorabilia from all different units they served in.”

Basilio Castro, a former sergeant in an Army medical battalion, served from 1956-1970. Castro is known as one of the Castro brothers, eight siblings, five whom remain, who all served in the military. Castro noted the Auxiliary is very active in the community and engaged with military members currently serving by mailing “care packages” to military bases, especially at holidays.

“We have a wonderful relationship with the auxiliary,” said Castro. “They are dedicated to helping service personnel down on their luck, sometimes pitching in for medical bills.”

The Auxiliary is an advocate for veteran’s rights, and advocated for legislation on upgrading benefits and fighting homelessness among veterans.

“We improve the lives of veterans, active military personnel, their families, at home and abroad,” stressed Gibbs.

2. Enhancements Planned for Holtville’s Mac Park  

          The Holtville City Council took a proactive stance to improve recreation options at the end of July, passing Resolution 19-28 to approve a grant application from the California Statewide Park and Development program with $255 million available. Awards are aimed at communities lacking parks, explained Jeorge Galvin, Holtville city planner.

Mack Park current baseball diamond in Holtville, Aug. 2, that will soon have a neighboring field supported by a Statewide Park Program Application grant.
Mack Park current baseball diamond in Holtville, Aug. 2, that will soon have a neighboring field supported by a Statewide Park Program Application grant. | File Photo

Galvan pointed out Mac Park is an ideal grant candidate, bordering the middle school and close to the elementary school. The park is four and a half acres with 3,000 people within a half mile and 1,200 living in poverty as median family income is under $26,000.

The idea is building a second baseball field with lighting and bleachers, a playground, walking trail with trees, a shaded picnic area with disabled-accessible areas, snack bar and restrooms for $1.6 million.

A factor in favor of Holtville was seven open meetings held across town soliciting input from a cross section of residents contributing to final plans. Esteban Pacheco, an Ash Street resident, lives in back of Mac Park.

“Hopefully it brings revenue to Holtville,” he said. “My dad is an umpire so we’re always watching from my house. I hope they let the neighbors in to toss or bat a ball around.”

The park originally had four baseball diamonds and was known as Angel Town, and was a spring training facility for the Los Angeles Angels. The park was named for Don McDougal, a San Diego developer who built the facility and leased it to the city who leased to the Angels.

1. Holtville Upgrades Housing Options/Downtown Developments Planned

Pushing forward to improve housing accommodations, the Holtville City Council unanimously passed Resolution 19-04 in May that approved 123 units of one- and two-bedroom apartments developed by Mellon Properties, LLC. The project helps fulfill the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation under the California Housing Element Law.

“It’s a process where each city is required to build a certain amount of housing for each income level,” said city planner Galvan. “This proposal is mostly affordable units, but the developer is keeping options open for a mix of market rates.”

Another apartment complex, the Fern Crossing Apartments, is planned for Fern Street and Holt Avenue. It comprises 44 units of which some would be two  bedrooms and others three bedrooms with a community room, playground, barbecue area and benches.

A HOPE FOR MORE COMMERCE: This vacant lot at 574 Holt Avenue in downtown Holtville is the planned site of a Cuchi’s Raspados and two apartments. | FILE PHOTO

“It’s an affordable housing project with 70 parking spaces,” said Galvan. “Section 8 vouchers are O.K. and children are welcome.”

Mellon expects to get a building permit and break ground by early 2020.

As for commercial projects, Holtville is expected to add a Cuchi’s Raspados. It is a 1,294 square foot ice cream and shaved ice parlor planned for Holt Avenue. There would be two attached apartments.

Another retailer, Dollar General is nearly ready to break ground once the building inspector completes a review. NNN Retail development will manage the 7,225-square-foot general merchandise store at where State Route 115 enters the city from the west. City Manager Nick Wells expressed optimism about Holtville’s development growth.

“I’m excited about the template of these projects because some are located on the downtown square,” said Wells. “Altogether it’s a good harbinger of increased activity in downtown.”


This story is featured in the Jan 02, 2020 e-Edition.