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City Clerk relates 5 positions open for Measure P

By Helen Tomlin News Review Staff Writer

The first City Council meeting of the year was short and quiet.  After a Girl Scout-led Pledge of Allegiance, there were four life-saving awards, four Discussion and Action items, and one citizen who spoke during the Public Comments segment.

Police Chief Mike Scott gave life-saving awards to three police officers and an off-duty registered nurse who was at the right place when needed.  First, awards were given to Sergeant Eric Hallmark and Officer Ryan Smith, who responded to a drug overdose last December. The subject was not breathing and had no pulse when these officers arrived.  However, after CPR and Narcan were administered, Liberty Ambulance took him to the hospital, where he fully recovered.

The second incident involved an unconscious choking victim lying on the ground.  Officer Cory Rinaldi responded to the 911 call and began to administer CPR.  However, a nurse and neighbor, Taylor Switzenberg, arrived and took over for Rinaldi.  After the subject regained his pulse, he was taken to the hospital and fully recovered.

During Public Comments, Eric Broderick spoke about his neighbor, a dog, leash laws, $300 fines, and cop-oriented retirement plans.

The four Discussion and Action items were the following.  First, Ricca Charlon, City Clerk, announced that five positions are needed to form a Measure P committee, and one or two positions are needed to fill two vacancies for Measure V.  Charlon said, “These vacancies need to be filled within the next two weeks because the committees would like to start meeting in March.” To fill the two vacancies on the Measure V committee, Councilman Solomon Rajaratnam nominated Gurpreet Badrain a high school math teacher.  Mayor Eric Bruen said he hopes Chip Holloway will decide to continue another year.  He will know by the next council meeting.

For the Measure P committee, the nominations are Holly Staab, Christian Patin, Denise Gorman, and Todd St. Laurent.  Scott Hayman has not yet submitted a nominee.

For the second action item, Hayman led the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) discussion.  He announced the new chairman is Phil Peters, and Hayman will fill the vice chair position.  He also said a public request was given to the water district asking for data from the recent new study.  The Water District has ten days to respond to the request.

After spending three and a half hours at the last IWV Water District’s strategy session, Bruen said he heard “several comments within the session that deserve a brief response from the city.”  He said he repeatedly heard from the members that “they want to work toward the cooperative relationship.”  But Bruen wanted to reiterate “that relationship has never left us.”  He said, “We are in a situation that involves large agriculture and large pumpers that affect our citizens, and we have a need to protect them.”  Bruen wants to “make very clear to the Water District that the City of Ridgecrest remains open to communicate with you.”  He said, “Our arms have never been closed to a handshake or giving you a hug.”

The third action item was presented by Ron Strand, who gave the Finance Report for Cheri Freese. He said, “The staff proposes a prudent 15 percent increase…to address escalating healthcare costs.”  The impact on the city’s budget would be $1,729, and he wanted to “make it effective for the next pay period.” He said, “This is real money in our employee’s pockets.”  This request was passed unanimously.

The last action item was requested by Captain Justin Dampier.  He said in September 2021, Governor Newsom signed a series of eight pieces of “policing reform legislation” that is “aimed at increasing transparency.”  One of these pieces, AB 481, requires all law enforcement agencies to “commence a governing body approval process for the adoption of a military equipment use policy… to continue the use of previously acquired ‘military equipment.’” It must be done in a public forum and be approved by the council on a yearly basis.    

Dampier said, “The State of California defines military equipment into 15 categories.”  He said Ridgecrest’s equipment only falls into five of those categories.  He presented a complete inventory of all the equipment the Ridgecrest police currently have and asked the council members to “review and approve” them.  He said this was officially a “first reading of the proposed ordinance by title and schedule.”  There will be a second reading and adoption at the next Council meeting.  He added that if the Council does not follow these required steps, the police department “must cease the use of all equipment defined as military equipment.”

Bruen said, “Overall, I think this is an example of over-legislation at its finest.”  He told Dampier he “absolutely supports [his] continued ability to do anything possible to protect our citizens.”

Other subjects discussed at the next city council meeting will be new city projects, including upgrades at the LeRoy Jackson Park Sports Complex and progress at Pinney Pool.  There will be another Town Hall to discuss Ridgecrest’s use of license plate readers, “Flock Safety,” on January 26.