Calexico considers paying for Nosotros with hospital funds

June 13, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The linchpin is $450,000.

While nothing is final, this city's Redevelopment Agency could use most of the $450,000 it is owed by the Heffernan Memorial Hospital District to pay for the completion of Nosotros Park.

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison called it a "win-win situation" for Calexico, but the City Council, seated as the RDA board, will wait a week and look at both issues separately.

The first issue the board discussed during Tuesday's meeting was the hospital district's debt.

Eduardo Rivera, attorney for the hospital district, said he expects the district to pay off the outstanding debt remaining from the $450,000 the RDA loaned the district in 1997.


The district will be able to pay in about 15 days, he said, once its $9.235 million 1996 bond issue is refinanced and restructured to take advantage of favorable interest rates.

How much will the RDA be paid?

On Tuesday, Rivera asked the board to waive more than $150,000 in interest the district owes.

Mayor Victor Carrillo asked Juan Verdugo, director of the city community development department, into which account the money from the district would be paid. Verdugo said it would go into an "unrestricted" account.

After a moment of silence, Carrillo said, "If we cut back on that amount we wouldn't be able to give it back to the community."

Carrillo continued, "The RDA loaned that money in good faith and assumed that the city would be paid back in full. The money was loaned to provide acute hospital care.

"That hasn't been provided, Carrillo added. "City money has been spent and there has been nothing provided in return."

Councilman Javier Alatorre showed empathy for the plight of the district board.

"Players are changing now. I think we can be creative with their board," he said.

After the discussion, the board asked City Attorney Michael Rood to look at the legality of the situation since the RDA board is suing the hospital district for the money.

Rood said he will bring back information at the next meeting Tuesday.

After the district matter was tabled, Carrillo read the line item concerning Nosotros Park.

Renison made a motion to allocate $100,000 toward completion of the park.

Ricardo Hinojosa, city planning director, told the board he was under the impression that it was going to allocate enough money to finish the park.

During a May meeting, the board had signed off on spending money to finish the park if there was no general fund money available from Sacramento. The board was were told there wasn't.

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva said, "We have done a disservice to the construction company (DEZ Construction of El Cajon). We shouldn't be content with getting by with the least. It shows a lack of respect to our community."

The contractor from DEZ, Ralph Hernandez, said the total cost to finish the park would be $514,800.

"Right now you have no sewer, no water, no grass and no bathrooms," Hernandez said.

He added: "You do have a parking lot for people to park in and watch the wind blow."

After hearing Hinojosa and Hernandez, Renison amended his motion to allocate $514,800 to finish the park.

That motion was amended again so the RDA will spend $376,000. The rest of the money will come from a $140,000 state grant, according to Verdugo.

Verdugo went on to say that the board would not be able to vote on the Nosotros Park matter Tuesday, but he would bring back the new numbers to a joint meeting of the RDA board/City Council for final approval.

"Once we get the money from the hospital district we can use it to pay off the park," Renison said and clapped his hands once.

"The taxpayers are in a win-win situation tonight," he added.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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