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Nick Wakley appeared in costume to announce the upcoming Ridge-Con Fantasy Festival at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 4 / Laura Austin Photo

City Council approves $76,521. for Splash Pad repair

By Helen Tomlin News Review Staff Writer–

The highlights from last week’s City Council meeting included an annual financial report, two public comments, two discussion/action items, and an update for housing ordinances prompted by recent California laws.  Announcements of upcoming events followed.

City Finance Director Cheri Freese hosted the “Annual Comprehensive Financial Report” given by a representative from The Pun Group Accountants and Advisors.  After the report was concluded, Councilman Scott Hayman said it looked like “we’re in a healthy position with no discrepancies.”

During Public Comments, Nick Wakley appeared in costume to announce the upcoming Ridge-Con Fantasy Festival at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 4, from 10 am to 5 pm.  Inspirational speaker and stunt woman Marika Daniels will be there.  Wakley said Daniels eats fire and dances with a barbed wire hula hoop. He said she does “all kinds of crazy stuff.”  Some of the activities for the day include a Cosplay contest, a rapier tournament, Dungeons and Dragons, and tabletop gaming at Joshua Hall.  He said, “There are all kinds of fun stuff for kids.” Several food vendors will be there. (See page 3)

The festival is a fundraiser sponsored by Friends of the Fair. Wakley said, “All the money will go to the fairgrounds to help maintain it for more community events.”  General admission is $20, but those wearing costumes will receive a $5 discount.

Robert Blackwell / Laura Austin Photo

Robert Blackwell spoke next.  Representing the Kawaiisu tribe, he said he had both positive and negative news.  He was pleased that the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitor’s Center (RACVC) would no longer sell imitation native art in their gift shop.  The tribe received a letter from Executive Director Kari Crutcher, who wrote that “after careful consideration and consultation with various stakeholders,” the visitor’s center has “taken proactive measures to ensure the art…represents and respects indigenous cultures.”  Anything not “directly attributed to authentic indigenous artists” will be removed.  Blackwell said the Center will also work with the tribe to make the Petroglyph Festival “more authentic and educational, focusing on the natives and their lives.”

Blackwell’s negative news centered around Councilman and metal artist Skip Gorman.  He said the tribe “objects to [Gorman] being involved with any issues relating to the Kawaiisu and the art displayed in city streets.”  He said, “It was indicated to us that Gorman did not receive any taxpayer money,” but recent documents have proved otherwise.  “We now have [proof Gorman] received over $8200 for just one piece of art” out of the “50-60 pieces” he has created.  “We’re still trying to figure out who paid for those in this ongoing process.”

In closing, Blackwell announced the tribe will hold an all-day protest against the city’s art on April 19 in front of NAWS.  They will also have two tables at the next Night on Balsam. One will be informational and the other will show some of the tribe’s “extremely unpleasant history of the last 175 years.”

The first Action/Discussion item was a request from Parks and Recreation Director Nerissa Wegener.  She asked the council to approve a $76,521 increase from the general fund to correct a drainage problem at the Splash Pad at Freedom Park.  She said the “original drainage isn’t working well enough to alleviate puddling.” Standing water attracts wasps and bees, and the pumps go out because of the collected debris piling up in the filtration system.  This request was unanimously approved.

The second action item was added at the last minute.  City engineer Travis Reed explained an issue with the 350-foot well at Freedom Park.  He said there is 50 feet of dirt at the bottom and the lining may be falling apart.  He has asked the well company for a breakdown in costs to discover the problem “so we can make an educated decision.”  The council unanimously approved an increased appropriation of $162,500 plus a 30 percent contingency fee for emergency well repair in the FY2025 budget.  Reed recommended that more proactive maintenance be done in the future.  “It’s a lot cheaper to maintain a well than it is to fix one when it goes down.”

City Planner Heather Spurlock presented the last agenda item.  She informed the council that California Health and Safety codes require the City to add definitions for employee housing, residential care homes, and single-room occupancies.  The City is also required to “permit employee housing for six or fewer employees as a single-family home.”  She presented a detailed PowerPoint presentation to explain what Ridgecrest must do to comply with the state’s ordinances. None of the amendments in the zoning code are subject to environmental review under CEQA.

Two upcoming events were announced. The League of California Cities will hold a meeting at the Historical USO building on May 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Leaders from areas such as Bishop, Apple Valley, and Lancaster/Palmdale will attend.

An Amateur Radio Field Day will be held at Freedom Park the weekend of June 22/23 from 10 am-10 pm. This is the largest amateur radio event across the U.S. and Canada.  Blades said, “When emergencies happen, you need these radio guys more than you think.”

The next city council meeting will be held April 17 at 6 pm.