On Wednesday, City staff gave a presentation to City Council on a fats, oils and grease (FOG) control program for food service establishments in Imperial Beach to ensure sewage pipes don't become fat-filled arteries.
The city wants to create incentives and disincentives, City Manager Gary Brown said, for food serving businesses to try and stop fats, oils and grease from going into the sewer system.
"Now, we are only asking for your general thoughts and what type of community outreach with interested stakeholders we should include in coming to a decision," he said.
The presentation laid out in detail the maintenance of the city's sewer system and showed problematic areas where lack of FOG control can create ongoing costly sewage drain maintenance.
City staff said six major areas are currently defined as in need of reoccurring maintenance at additional costs to the city.
City staff want a plan in which sewer lines only need maintenance once a year to cut budget expenses.
After a few slides and some video of one of the sewer lines that collect grease and oil on a regular basis, Mayor Jim Janney stopped the presentation.
"Out of the 43 establishments, 50 percent might not know anything about this," said Janney. "If we go directly into this we are going to immediately hear from the public 'here they go again. The city is anti-business."
If Council does not do the research first, Janney said, the city is going to be caught in the middle.
"I would love to see that you got together with a group designated from the 43 businesses and see what they support along with how the staff could work with it, versus making a decision here that could come back and really hurt us," he said.
"Those are the people we really need to have a conversation with first, " Janney said.
"We are talking money here, and these businesses are who this is going to affect."
He said these people that own the businesses and the knowledge that they have of what will and will not work is imperative to a decision.
"I think that we as a body need to have inputs from those businesses as well as what the staff sees," said Janney. "This discussion and matrix first needs to go out to those people. I am not sure if we have the cart before the horse here as far as bringing it to us now."
Of the 43 businesses Council's decision would impact, said Councilwoman Lorie Bragg, half of them are already in some type of compliance. Three have grease interceptors, 22 have grease traps and 18 do not have anything.
"One of the successes of the responsible retail program is that we reached out to the community and got them involved in it," she said. "We had a good response to that. Those would be the ones we reach out to the most."