The construction of an electric vehicle charging station at Rockwood Park, a historic site, has raised concerns within the Calexico community. The decision to install these charging stations without seeking input from the community is a matter of great disappointment and calls into question the preservation of Calexico’s early history.
Inside the construction is a monument dedicated to Richard “Dick” Emerson, Calexico City Clerk for 61 years. Emerson had been vitally associated with every phase of civic progress since the early days of our town; he had watched and guided the history of Calexico almost since its birth. He was first employed by the city in October 1923 as a deputy clerk. In April 1924, he was elected to the office of city clerk and served continuously since.
During his tenure as city clerk, Dick held various other positions, such as city court judge, superintendent of streets, and similar posts. He then held the position of city administrator in addition to his clerk’s job. Many changes occurred since 1925, with additions to city services such as the municipal hospital, ambulance service, and engineering department, and changing the fire department to a paid regular staff. In the old days, it was strictly a volunteer staff.
He also advocated the establishment of a tourist bureau on Imperial Avenue to render a wide variety of services to the ever-increasing number of travelers coming to this area and Mexico through our border-crossing station. A resident of Calexico since boyhood, Emerson lived with his wife Lela at the northwest corner of Fifth and Paulin.
Sadly, Mr. Emerson’s history and legacy are being disrespected by this EV project.
In 2023, Comité Cívico Del Valle launched the Lithium Valley EV Charger Equity Initiative. This initiative is a non-profit model to construct and operate an EV charging station network in the Imperial Valley. With Imperial Valley having the lowest rate of EV chargers per capita of all 58 counties in California, Comité Cívico’s goal is to install 20 publicly accessible charging stations across the Imperial Valley.
Since February 2023, the City of Calexico collaborated with Comite Civico del Valle, Inc. to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Both parties agreed on Fifth Street and Mary Avenue as the optimal location, close to City Hall, Fire Station No. 1, Police Station, Rockwood Plaza Park, and San Diego State Campus. On March 1, 2023, the City Council approved designating four parking spaces for EV charging stations, along with a budget amendment of $38,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city provides space, while Comite Civico del Valle manages construction, power installation, and station maintenance.
In analyzing the EV project in Calexico, it becomes abundantly clear that serious flaws and oversights have occurred. It is disheartening to note that this project was undertaken without a proper purchase agreement or an environmental review by the city. Such a lack of due diligence raises serious concerns about the project’s validity and its impact on the community.
Furthermore, the location of this project within a public park cannot be overlooked. By encroaching upon this cherished space, which should be dedicated to the recreation and enjoyment of the city’s children and nearby residents, it appears that the project is taking away from the very essence of Calexico’s community spirit.
This project can be perceived as a misappropriation of public funds, as it essentially gifts a valuable public resource to a private entity without proper justification or transparency. This undermines the trust that the city’s pioneers had placed in their local government, which helped shape and build Calexico into what it is today.