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Merchants: Who will pay for downtown E.C. security?

May 03, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

With the city of El Centro prepared to take custody of the $5 million downtown revitalization project in about two weeks, the question at Wednesday's City Council meeting was how are the city and the downtown merchants going to pay for the area's maintenance and security.

Though rough figures of what it could cost were not discussed, those numbers should be released in the near future. However the city decides to proceed, it's clear the city will pay for the required costs for at least the first couple years.

City Manager Abdel Salem said there are only minor issues remaining before the city accepts custody and responsibility for the area, including security of the new plaza and its cleanliness. He said at this point it is unsure where the money will come from.

The city has discussed with merchants the possibility of establishing a lighting and maintenance district or a business improvement district, though neither has come to fruition. At a meeting with merchants in November, Salem told property owners if they vote to establish a lighting and maintenance district he would recommend to the City Council that it provide money for several years to promote the downtown area. He said the city would not invest $5 million in the downtown area if it were not committed to the area, and that an LMD is needed to help pay for maintenance of the improvements.

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Whatever the costs, City Councilman Larry Grogan said he will discuss the issue with downtown merchants to ensure they're knowledgeable of the matter.

Councilman David Dhillon said the city and the community will be the ones affected first as they, and not just downtown property owners, will pay for the maintenance and security for the first couple years.

Councilman Jack Dunnam said the city will have to protect its interest with or without the merchants' cooperation.

Mayor Cheryl Walker told Salem that city staff must put together a proposal for covering the costs, explain why it is the best proposal and how the proposal will be funded.

In other downtown business, Salem said the city is moving forward on action against the owner of the former Fox Theatre, which was gutted by fire in January. He said he'd been informed that the owner's insurance company had issued a check to pay for the site's cleanup. He said if the city cleans the site a lien will be placed against the property.

Salem also announced the clean up of the old Salvation Army site began Wednesday. The store was gutted by a fire in December.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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