Joel Reisen Park Lights
Light poles lay unused at Joel Reisen Park in Calexico as the city seeks to arrange funding for installing them. Groundwater close to the surface complicated the project. | Corissa Ibarra photo

Freebie Getting Costly; Calexico Must Pony Up to Install Park Lights

CALEXICO — With financial resources scarce, Calexico must find $175,000 to finish installing grant-funded sports lighting for Joel Reisen Park after the first attempt ended in vain in October.

Volunteer crews from the Imperial Irrigation District began to dig the first of seven 14-foot holes for the lights when they struck water just several feet down, Calexico City Manager David Dale said Nov. 21.

That forced the dig to stop until city officials could consult outside help to figure out how to proceed.

Located at Sapphire Street and Andrade Avenue, Joel Reisen Park is a repurposed 3.5-acre retention basin for the adjacent Victoria Villas subdivision. It has been used for baseball and softball but lack of lights limits use time.

Various community members, including city Council Member Morris Reisen, who is the son of the park’s namesake, have been fighting for lights for at least a decade.

Funding ‘Stymied’

With the seven light poles sitting uninstalled for months, Reisen vowed Nov. 21 that “One way or another, we’re going to find that money.”

However, Dale added, “We’re stymied at the moment” on how to pay for it.

The lighting, labor and even the volunteer electricians to power up the poles once they are erected, have all been coordinated or donated through IID board President Erik Ortega, whose Division 4 district includes Calexico.

 “I’m following through until we get this done,” Ortega said of the lighting issue.

One of the engineering firms consulted on the matter said with the water table so near the surface installation will cost about $25,000 per pole because it’s a “complex process,” Dale explained.

Various city commissions will be asked to re-allocate funds from other projects and, as such, the project has no time line, Dale added.

Bid for Measure H dollars

Reisen said he intends to soon contact the city’s Measure H Committee to get on its monthly agenda to lobby for funding.

“One way or another, we’re going to find that money.”

Morris Reisen

“I feel the city of Calexico should put their part in now. Everything else has been freebies. I feel like the city should intervene and do something,” Reisen said.

Measure H is a half-cent sales tax measure approved by city voters in June 2010 in part to fund public safety and parks and recreation. As part of the measure, an oversight committee was established to make certain the money was being spent responsibly.

“I think we have a good shot to get it,” Reisen said.

Ortega helped the city secure the funding to purchase the lights shortly after his election to the IID board in 2016. In 2017, he approached the city and encouraged the council to apply for a Local Entity grant funded by the San Diego County Water Authority. The monies are part of the authority’s mitigation payments to the IID to address potential farm-job losses due to the 2003 water-transfer agreement.

Calexico was awarded $150,000 to design and purchase its own sports lighting. Dale said it took some time to design the lights and for the lights and poles to be built.

Ortega said he was able to corral the volunteer labor for installation from IID work crews and coordinate with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 San Diego and Imperial counties to donate some of its local union electricians to wire the lighting once it was installed.

Reisen said the park was named after his father, Joel Reisen, about 15 years ago and recalled informing him of that.

 “I went up to the old man — he was nearly 100 years old — and I told him, ‘We got the field named for you,’” he said. Reisen said his father, who was a Calexico pioneer and owner of the Tienda Del Army Surplus Store its downtown, “gave a lot to the community.”

This story is featured in the Nov 28, 2019 e-Edition.

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