Sunday, February 5, 2023

City Council Dives Into Sewage Contamination and Budget Summary

The June 21 Coronado City Council meeting had two main topics, the report on the new ‘San Diego County Water Quality Testing and Beach Closures,’ and the ‘2022/2023 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan.’

In City Manager updates, Tina Friend opened up with the SANDAG Mobility Plan, and reminded that public review closes July 15th. Next, she shared that the City of Coronado received on May 8th the new bay and ocean water testing protocols. Since these new testing protocols came out from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health (DEH), the City of Imperial Beach has had consecutive ‘no swimming signs’ on their beaches almost every day. The City of Coronado has had more than usual no swimming signs as well. The new testing is called Digital Drop Polymer Chain Reaction (DDPCR) and is DNA based, providing results within 10 hours. A related KPBS article provides additional information about the testing, along with comments from Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. The article also states that results can be provided in four to six hours, whereas the previous culture-based test typically took 24 to 48 hours for results.

Residents Rebecca King and Laura Wilkinson voiced their concerns from a community health standpoint, and also reiterated that our military trains in these waters. They feel that the City of Coronado, joint cities, and the government are not doing enough to protect the community.

Mayor Richard Bailey and Councilmember Mike Donovan reminded everyone that it was the City of Coronado who took a very active role in getting the $300 million appropriation of the $600 million needed from the Federal Government to get a new sewage treatment plant built in Tijuana. It was also voiced that we are not there yet, more pressure is needed to get the rest of the appropriation amount funded. Mayor Bailey confirmed that the $300 million will get the sewer treatment plan started in 2023.

A big concern from Mayor Bailey is that San Diego County is currently the only region required to use this new testing along with new closure ‘indicators’ in California. This has resulted in near-constant beach closures which is negatively impacting residents and beach goers, and is also going to hurt the economy. He mentioned that in the reports so far, the bacteria levels are the same as they have been in the past, but the old tests and indicators did not result in beach closures. Bailey also shared that reports so far for negative health related incidences is not on the rise; just an unprecedented rise in beach closures for Coronado and Imperial Beach.

Mayor Bailey urged that he would like to put pressure on the county to use both tests. He will be working with IB Mayor Dedina on a joint statement.

Councilmember Bill Sandke stated that he’s had a conversation with Congressman Juan Vargas to have a better communication plan and a tiered system of reporting. This would include new warning signs with levels reported, and would give the individual the choice to go in the water or not.

Residents and the community know the Tijuana River Valley sewage problem has been going on for far too long. Now with constant beach closures, the question we should be asking seems to be: “Does this new testing mean we are not going to have recreational access to the water in Coronado and Imperial Beach until late 2023?”

Another question we can ask, was the new testing mechanism in addition to indicator protocols implemented at the same time for a reason?

Councilmember Marvin Heinze questioned the veracity and threshold. Where does the county determination start and stop? Sandke reiterated that the sewer treatment plant was built in the ’90s and for some time now has not been able to sustain the constant growth and development in Mexico. We need to build a coalition of concerted efforts to get this resolved more urgently.

There was a motion and consensus approval to work with neighbors for a ‘Joint Letter’ with the City of Imperial Beach, Surfrider Foundation, Wildcoast and others, to question the new test and the new thresholds. Coronado will take the lead and work with Imperial Beach.

The second half of the meeting dove into the vital review of the Fiscal Year 2022–2023 proposed budget and financial plan presentation and workshop. City Manager Tina Friend opened it up letting us know she was excited to look at ‘stabilization.’ Coming out of a pandemic, with historic inflation, the federal response to the recession – whether a big R or little r, and shifting labor market are all factors. The proposed budget is allowing for stabilization which includes staff. In addition, this is a big year for recreation, including the Cays Park Master Plan next year.

Friend gave a special thank you to the city financial management team, and Administrative Services Director Mr. John Kim reported.

Click here to see the full budget workshop presentation

‘General Fund – Revenue Highlights’ – $66.1 million


  • Property Tax: $37.4 million, increase of $2.0 million, or 5.8%
  • Transient Occupancy Tax: $15.0 million, increase of $1.0 million, or 7.1%
  • Sales & Use Tax: $3.9 million, increase of $543,000 or 16.4%


  • No significant reductions are expected

‘General Fund – Expenditures Highlights’ – $65.7 million

  • Increase of $4.9 million or 8.2%
  • Personnel, Increase of $1.8 million or 5.1%
    • Applicable step increases, salary adjustments, CalPERS contributions, cafeteria plan
    • Seasonal/temp employees, OT
    • No FTE or classifications changes, will be proposed in PACP (September 2022)
  • Services & Supplies, increase of $2.0 million or $13.7%
    • Various goods, services, energy costs, etc.
  • Transfer to Other Funds, net increase of $1.1 million or 13%
    • Higher GF transfers to Recreation and Community Development

The sequencing of proposed projects was handed out. All projects stayed in sequences except the council voted and approved moving up the Coronado Municipal Golf Course ‘Satellite Water Recycling and Turf Care Facilities’ Project.

Click here for the Capital Improvement Projects Sequencing

A big concern voiced by Mr. Kim was having enough management staff to complete the projects. The response from council was that we cannot bring in more FTE (full time employees) and a suggestion was to bring in a consultant in lieu of.

Next, Tina Friend was requested by Councilmembers Heinze and Donovan and Mayor Bailey to compile documents about the current fees. She noted we lack a comprehensive fee schedule and that current records are in disorder. She indicated to the council and mayor that a comprehensive fee study was proposed and approved for the FY 22-33 budget year, and a consultant would need to be brought in; adding that it is vital to look at the cost of delivering services and determine the appropriate level of cost recovery, and in order to do that a fee study is essential.

Closing out the meeting, Mayor Bailey submitted a motion to approve budget, Councilmember Sandke seconded, and all approved.


Pilialoha Estall
Pilialoha Estall
Pilialoha has a diverse background, ranging from non-profits, and experiential marketing, to being an executive event producer, and has a pr agency focused on youth development. She is passionate about helping her community, (a 4th generation Coronadan) and is on the boards for Coronado Schools Foundation, Coronado Band & Choir Boosters, Rady Children’s Hospital - Coronado Auxiliary, and Coronado Flower Association.She loves spending time with her family, golfing with her daughter and friends, and Polynesian dancing! She loves writing (from comedy to novels, you name it). She also has a humble weblog and global podcast PilialohaNow - Building Sustainability, available on all major platforms.Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]