HOLTVILLE — Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Holtville City Council unanimously authorized a local emergency at its regular meeting March 23.
The meeting was held by conference call with City Manager Nick Wells, Mayor Ginger Ward and City Attorney Steve Walker in attendance and the rest of the council communicating by telephone.
In compliance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 directive for state residents to shelter in place, Wells urged Holtville residents to limit their visits to city facilities and complete as much business as possible by phone or email.
Public meetings of various boards and commissions were postponed indefinitely. In addition, park restrooms will be closed as well as the Gene Layton pool. During this time there will be no park access, no facility reservations or rentals, no special events, no youth or adult recreational league or club play or practices at city properties. Also, annual business fire re-inspections have been postponed and all station tours and presentations postponed.
Regarding utility bill payments residents are asked to use the utility department’s drop box on the north side of City Hall for checks or money orders. No cash payments will be accepted. A new payment option as of March 20 is PayPal, using the email address: email@example.com, which requires a $5 service fee with each payment.
“In discussions with City Council and staff, we are hopeful that this crisis is mitigated by the measures being put in place. In exercising great caution, we have decided to minimize staff interaction with the public as much as is feasible, while working to create as many options as we can to continue ease of access,” Wells stated in a March 24 press release. “We are still here to help, but please call in for service.”
Key city contacts include: Administration, Billing & Finance at (760) 356-2912; City Clerk/Records at (760) 356-4685; Planning at (760) 337-3883; and Police at (760) 356-5960 for business calls. For emergencies, call 911.
An emergency center opens
“The city is implementing social-distancing measures all across nonessential services,” said Wells.
The city also decided to open an emergency operations center at the civic center with same hours, 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-in inquiries are acceptable, but the city urges alternative means to communicate.
“We were hesitant to open an EOC because we do not have highly trained medical personnel or an EMT (emergency medical technician),” said Wells. “If people have concerns, we want them to know, we’re here and ready to go with contingency plans. But we prefer the public phone: 760-356-4574 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Development moves forward
Wells made a brief mention of the city’s stormwater conveyance system, a large portion of which flows through a drainage ditch along the east side of Mellon Avenue that then drains into the Alamo River via a pipeline, open ditch and culvert. Much of the pathway is through private property.
“The runoff creates a nuisance for one of the property owners and he has requested the city do something to alleviate the problem in the past,” said Wells. “The property is a produce storage facility. And a recent mandatory food safety inspection revealed the ditch would require undergrounding (of pipeline). The city engineer started working on it in December, but we are still waiting for completion of the feasibility report.”
The long awaited Fern Crossing Apartments has at last gotten under way. This is a 44-units complex along the block bound by Holt Avenue, Fern Avenue and Fourth Street.
“It’s been in construction for the past month,” recalled Wells. “It will include available retail space, but it has not been identified who will occupy it and we don’t have an estimated time of arrival yet.”
In other business, a mid-year budget review disclosed the city’s general fund has a $336,859 deficit.
But that is largely owing to revenues from other agencies yet to be paid. Within the next few months, reimbursements from the state Office of Emergency Services for the Kincaid Fire in Sonoma County is due to the city. Holtville firefighters contributed a strike team to help with the blaze.
The state’s COPS (Citizen Action for Public Safety) grant will start to trickle in. This fund is expected to be in before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, assured Wells. It helps pay for police services. The water fund posted a revenue surplus of $225,547, owing to normal business activity. Meanwhile, the sewer fund saw a revenue surplus of $440,538. However, the trash fund has a miniscule revenue deficit of $6,000.
This story is featured in the Mar 26, 2020 e-Edition.