The Imperial Beach City Council made changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program for Small Businesses during the last meeting on Aug. 5. The reimbursement, which was first set at $2,500, has been increased to $5,000. To date only $40,000 of the $150,000 from the program has been claimed. It was recommended that the limit be increased to $5,000 and the the new deadline for reimbursement changed to Aug. 31, 2020.

The number of employees had been raised to 50 from 25. It was clarified that large corporations are not considered for the program and small businesses can easily spend more than $2,500 to continue operating within social distancing guidelines. There are strict guidelines set for what the funds can be used for, and the county has asked for a progress report from the city which has to be reviewed and approved. Any leftover funds will be used by the city for COVID related expenses. Councilman Mark West stated he is still finding businesses that have not yet heard or applied for the funds.

A State Coastal Coastal Conservancy grant of $500,000 has been received by the city to develop at Tijuana River Valley Sediment Management Work plan and Monitoring Program. The project has two main parts: develop a sediment management work plan to maximize reuse of sediment from current and anticipated stormwater management operations, and second, to implement a baseline water quality and sediment monitoring program.

This item was presented by Natural Resources Director Chris Helmer. “The reason why this project gets so much attention is that it will help push forward other projects in the river valley like the continued restoration of the Tijuana Estuary, the 400 acre tidal restoration project in the plans for many years and will influence design of the USMCA project to identify new pollution control. The project will last 12 months. We have talked about this for eight years and now we have funding,” said Helmer.

Three resolutions were carried unanimously: the approval of the grant, appropriation of the funds for the FY 2021 budget, and authorizing a contract with Dudek for consulting support to develop a river valley sediment management work plan and monitoring program.

In other business:

A proclamation in support of Pride Month and raising the pride banner on the flagpole at City Hall was approved unanimously.

The consent calendar was approved unanimously.

The lighting district on a portion of Palm Avenue right of way was dissolved. The assessment district was created to pay for the cost of construction, maintenance and operation of streetlights on Hwy 75 in 1992 when it was under the jurisdiction of the state. Staff recommended that now that the street belongs to the city, it is not cost effective to administer the assessment district. Eliminating the district would also lessen the expenses of business owners during the pandemic. The district generates under $12,000 a year and the engineering study would still be required at the expense of $4,800 plus staff time. Councilman Ed Spriggs has sided himself against the dissolution because he feels the majority of the businesses on Palm Avenue are multi-national companies and the city is struggling for revenue during COVID-19 pandemic. West thought that if an assessment district exists in the city, it should be throughout and equal for all businesses not just those on Palm Avenue. The resolution passed 4 to 5 with no by Spriggs.

A reimbursement to the Boys & Girls (B&G) Club in the amount of $37,891.50 was approved by the council. The expenses were incurred from July 1, 2019 to June 2020. Since 2014 the city has filled in the gap for expenses that exceed revenues at the B&G Club. The club has provided recreation programs for the city for many years. Since July 2019 the city has continued a month to month agreement with the B&G Club until other recreation services are explored. A motion to approve this item was carried unanimously.

Assistant City Manager Erika Cortez gave a COVID-19 update. She reminded everyone that face coverings are required in public and the city has helped local businesses with outdoor expansions, emergency relief finding and street closures to expand their footprints. A free county testing site is located at Mar Vista High School. Both Spriggs and Mayor Pro Tem Paloma Aguirre said they have both seen many people not wearing masks and they would like to see a campaign to help spread the message. It was suggested to partner with businesses and create a raffle and use electronic signs to remind everyone to wear masks. It was also pointed out that La Posta Market was fined for five violations in relations to COVID-19 pandemic. House parties were also discussed as well as their enforcement.

A review of the past Law Enforcement Ad Hoc Committee meeting was discussed. A report based on the findings of the committee will be presented to the council on Sept. 16. Three more meetings are scheduled.

The city council as the IB Redevelopment Agency Successor Agency voted to approve and authorize professional agreements with Montague Derose and Associates, and Fraser and Associates as fiscal consultants to provide professional services for the possible refunding of the series 2013 tax locations bonds. A second resolution also passed, approving the issuance of tax allocation refunding bonds relating to the Palm Avenue/Commercial Redevelopment Project. In December 2013 the former IB Redevelopment Agency issued the 2013 tax allocation refunding bonds that were used for improvements in the redevelopment area. The proceeds were used for the following projects: Breakwater at 9th and Palm Avenue commercial center, Bikeway Village, Pier South Hotel, alleys, and other improvements. The bond debt is repaid from the increase in property values following the improvements and does not come from the general fund.

A discussion was held regarding the odors in Imperial Beach. Residents have raised concerns about potential health hazards in the air possibly coming from the Tijuana River. The city plans to send a letter to the California Air Resources Board and local San Diego Air Pollution Control District to investigate potential hazards in the air related to the Tijuana River and other emissions coming from the border.

The next city council meeting will be held on Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. and will be available for viewing on the city website at www.imperialbeachca.gov

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