During Tuesday night’s Porterville City Council meeting, the Council unanimously voted to approve the award of the largest forgivable business loan to a local business to date affected by COVID-19 using CDBG-CV funds
The Council also gave direction to City Staff as to what approach the city should take in regards to receiving mosquito abatement services.
On Tuesday night, Jason Ridenour, an Economic Development Associate with the City of Porterville, addressed the Council about the application submitted by Erick Madrigal, the owner of Living Water Clinic. Madrigal stated the pandemic has impacted his business in multiple ways including a decrease in the number of clients seeking healthcare services at the clinic, an increase in expenses in order for the clinic to stay within compliance, and modifications to healthcare procedures in order to follow social distancing guidelines.
Madrigal had applied for a loan of $177,580.22, stating he would use the loan “for working capital to assist in chronic care management, telemonitoring, online scheduling/digital patient experience, online digital check in, payment, patient intake, and document retrieval, telemedicine and sanitization of workstations for preventing, preparing for, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the operational requirements established by the State of California.”
Ridenour explained if approved, Madrigal must create and retain six full-time positions at Living Water Clinic and he must follow all of the terms and conditions set forth by the loan agreement. The loan is secured by a lien on real property. If Madrigal complies to all of the terms and conditions within the agreement, the loan becomes forgivable after two years.
Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola started the Council’s discussion on the matter by asking if the loan would be put towards software upgrades throughout the clinic in order to maintain social distancing requirements. Ridenour responded by saying the clinic currently has some software installed Madrigal needs assistance operating, but some of the loan would be put towards installing new software to help the clinic adhere to state and local guidelines.
None of the other Council members had any questions in regards to the loan application, however Mayor Martha Flores inquired as to how many applications had been submitted for the CDBG-CV loan. Ridenour answered 39 inquiries have been made, nine applications have been submitted, two additional applications are anticipated, two applications have already been approved, and several applications are in or near the final review process. Ridenour also announced the City of Porterville would be the recipient of an additional $395,000 in funding in the near future.
With no further discussion from the Council, Gurrola moved for the approval of the $177,580.22 loan to Living Water Clinic. Flores seconded the motion, and the Council unanimously voted in favor.
As the meeting continued, City Manager John Lollis addressed the Council in regards to the provision of local mosquito abatement services. Lollis explained roughly half of Tulare County is covered by mosquito abatement districts. These districts handle the abatement services and control of mosquitoes in communities within their jurisdictions. While half of the county is covered, the City of Porterville doesn't fall within one of the district’s jurisdictions.
Lolis said roughly a decade ago, a conversation took place revolving around the possibility of annexing the remaining communities in the county into local abatement districts. After surveying voters in those communities, the support for joining a district was too low to move forward.
John Avila, the General Manager for the Tulare Mosquito Abatement District, explained there's a new mosquito that has been found locally that targets and only bites humans. He stated if one person is bit and is infected with a disease, this mosquito will carry it from person to person. This new mosquito type also looks for small pockets of water to lay their eggs, as opposed to large open bodies of water. Avila stated the phone calls for services from the Tulare Mosquito Abatement District have increased by 500 percent since the arrival of this new type of mosquito.
Councilman Daniel Penaloza questioned Lollis as to what measures the city is already taking to prevent mosquitoes. Lollis replied typically prevention is handled by the local mosquito abatement districts and not the city itself.
Councilman Milt Stowe asked Avila how the diseases spread. Avila replied it spreads from person to person as the same mosquito goes biting different people.
Vice Mayor Monte Reyes asked if this new mosquito had any indications of having a different life cycle than an average mosquito. Avila replied typically the life cycles are the same, however, when it's cold, these new mosquitoes can lay in a warm place, like the corner of a bathroom, and survive through the cold of the winter.
When it came time for the Council to give direction to staff as to how to approach mosquito abatement services, Flores stated it will have to be bigger than just Porterville. Gurrola, Stowe and Penaloza all agreed they would like to see services brought into the city, but would also like to reach out to the surrounding communities to seek a solution. Reyes stated he would like to take a regional approach to this item and the city should increase public awareness about abatement districts and services.
The Council directed City Staff to bring the item back for a future discussion no later than the first Council meeting in November.