Saturday, September 30, 2023

Cays Park, Lifeline Business Loans, and Financial Report Highlights of Council Meeting

Mayor Bailey presents City Engineer Ed Walton with a proclamation and key to the city as he retires after 33 years.

Presentations started off the December 7 Coronado City Council meeting, with Mayor Bailey proclaiming December 10 as “Ed Walton Day” to honor Walton as he retires after 33 years of service. Starting as an associate engineer in 1988, he rose to principal engineer and is retiring as city engineer. During his tenure, he was involved with many key projects including the Transbay force main replacement, Adella Plaza and Rotary Plaza improvements, the Cays pump station replacement, Natures’ Bridge to Discovery, Pomona Roundabout and numerous other capital improvement projects. He is known for his positive attitude and willingness to bet you for a Las Cuatro Milpas burrito. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on.

Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli receives appreciation from Mayor Bailey as he steps down as Port Commissioner.

Next up was recognition for Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli for his eight years of service as Coronado’s representative on the San Diego Unified Port District. Wanting to skip all the accolades, the audience chuckled as he requested that Mayor Bailey omit the reading of his proclamation and “get on with it,” declaring December 7 as “Garry J. Bonelli Day. As Port Commissioner, he was Chairman of the Board in 2019, and oversaw the public art “Penelope” in Tidelands Park. He also served on numerous committees including the SANDAG Board. Frank Urtasun was sworn in as Coronado’s new Port Commissioner by City Clerk Jennifer Ekblad. He previously served for 10 years as Port Commissioner for Imperial Beach, and currently has his own public affairs and communications firm. Prior to that he retired as a vice president from Sempra Energy. His official duties begin January 3, 2022.

Coronado’s new Port Commissioner Frank Urtasun is sworn in by City Clerk Jennifer Ekblad.

City Manager Tina Friend gave her report thanking the community, Chamber of Commerce, and city staff, especially the police, fire, and recreation departments, for the outstanding holiday parade and tree and menorah lighting. She also mentioned that the Coronado mural will be coming down this week from the old CoraMart building, as the Vons expansion progresses. The popular art piece has been up for three years and will be saved for possible future use. Friend introduced Leon Firsht as the new Public Services and Engineering Director, who has 25 years experience in civil engineering, most recently as the public works director for La Mesa. He just started, but she noted his energetic attitude and said he already has lots of ideas.

Administrative Service Director John Kim gave an overview of the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACER), which shows the city’s financial condition for the year ending June 30, 2021. He praised Finance Manager Emad Gewaily and his team for their excellent work. He noted that both revenues and expenses decreased due to COVID-19 issues, and the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), which was especially hard hit, is now coming back at a steady pace. “There are trends of economic recovery,” he reported, with a 2021 Fund Balance of $176,398,884, up $843,088 from 2020. The strongest revenue source is property taxes and those are increasing as the price of homes goes up. TOT and property taxes make up 85 percent of the city’s revenues. He highlighted that the Golf Course saw a $1.4 million increase in revenues, with increased play and decreased expenses, due to staff vacancy and less water usage.

An audit was conducted by Davis Farr, and CPA Shannon Ayala presented via Zoom that her firm spent 500 hours analyzing the financial data, including testing the city investment policy and processes, as well as interviewing staff and other components. Davis Farr issued an unmodified opinion, which is the highest level of achievement for an audit. The council unanimously voted to receive and file this report.

An update on the Lifeline Business Loans was presented by Assistant City Manager Dominique Albrecht who outlined an Economic Hardship Program. Out of the $2 million for the program, $1.7 million was distributed to 94 local businesses, starting back in April 2020. To date, $36,000 has been repaid, with four businesses in active repayment and one fully paid off. Some businesses are asking if the loans can be turned into grants and forgiven. Since he wasn’t on the council when this was decided, Councilmember Tanaka asked what the original intention of giving the money was and was told by Mayor Bailey that these were bridge loans with favorable terms to see businesses through until state and federal funds became available. While Councilmember Sandke advocated for forgiving the loans, and asked how the $2 million for the next two years from the American Rescue Plan Act will be spent, to which Friend said that there were allowable categories for the money to be spent and a plan will come to council at a later date. The other councilmembers didn’t support complete forgiveness, but the vote was unanimous for approval of the following proposed Economic Hardship Program, with the exception in regard to bankruptcy and death, state and federal laws would be followed.

  1. Borrowers can request temporary forbearance if they experience disruptions over the life of the loan, i.e., cash flow issues, major illness, etc.
  2. Loan forgiveness available for businesses experiencing bankruptcy or the death of the primary borrower (Council voted to follow state and federal laws in these matters.)
  3. Formal request submitted to the City Manager’s Office with supporting documents
  4. Recovered funds return to the General Fund

A simple update on $55,000 in additional funds for the Coronado Cays Park Master Plan turned into a lengthy discussion as eight residents spoke on the topic citing resident petitions, both public and private, soccer usage, dog park issues, and noted that Cays residents want to be involved in this process. City Manager Tina Friend said she has already discovered that Coronado has good community engagement and noted that COVID-19 changed the way people use parks, and said they have a strong process to get this right. Principal Engineer Jim Newton is the project manager and gave a presentation on the history of the project, which began in July 2019. Van Dyke Landscape Architects, who were determined to be experts in this area, were 90 percent finished with initial renderings when work was halted due to the pandemic. Newton pointed out that they will now resume the project but with the additional community and city input. Each of the councilmembers weighed in and understood the need for community input. Councilmember Donovan wanted to first determine how much of the park should be designated to programmable activities, such as soccer, baseball, etc., but the council felt that this should move forward and that could be decided concurrently. Newton outlined the next seven steps:

  1. Consultant Review Date/Public Feedback
  2. Review City Policies/Procedure regarding park use
  3. Develop three master plan concepts with heavy graphic support
  4. Hold two public workshops to solicit input
  5. Conduct an online survey
  6. Develop final concept and determine cost estimates
  7. Master plan presentation

Ultimately, the council unanimously approved the additional funds, with the addition of asking Newton to bring back a more detailed next steps document with milestone dates.

Approved on the Consent Calendar ~

A resolution was adopted opposing the proposed mobility hub for Coronado identified by SANDAG in the 2021 Regional Plan.

Mary Hale was reappointed as City of Coronado’s Representative to the Port of San Diego Arts & Culture Advisory Committee for a three-year term. She started in this position in February 2019.

Finishing the meeting in committee reports, Councilmember Heinze noted that previously mentioned monies from Metro JPA will come sooner than expected in the next couple months. Mayor Bailey stated that the SANDAG Regional Plan vote is forthcoming, with 3,000 emails received in opposition.

Jennifer Velez
Jennifer Velez
Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]