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City Council focuses on citizens, Quality of Life

By Susan Read News Review Staff Writer–
The City Council meeting of September 7, 2022 was filled with a focus on public input and quality of life subjects. The meeting opened with public comment from three citizens. Terry Mitchell presented an earnest request for the city to work harder at securing a community pool. Mitchell stressed the importance of learning to swim as a life skill for children and adults alike. Nick Coy of the Ridgecrest Veterans Advisory Council expressed concern for cars racing down Upjohn Avenue in the vicinity of Faller Elementary School. He reported that there will be a Veterans Standdown on September 30, 2022 at the Kerr McGee Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mike Neel reflected on the Police Department statistics regarding crime trends and suggested armed citizenry in light of the staffing shortage within the Police Department (see Police Chief Jed McLaughlin’s response below).

Mayor Eric Bruen acknowledged that a reorganization of council committee assignments was being made at the request of Council Member Peggy Breeden who stated that, while the community has been aware of her cancer recovery, she is now facing medical tests related to her heart and asked to be relieved of her committee roles.  Vice Mayor Solomon Rajaratnam volunteered to be the representative to the City Organization and Services Committee, and Council Member Kyle Blades has expressed interest in being the alternate representative to the IWV Groundwater Authority. Mayor Bruen thanked Breeden (herself the former mayor of Ridgecrest) for her long-term service and commitment to city government and the community at large.

Council approved the service agreement with Willdan Engineering for preliminary construction engineering services for improvements at Leroy Jackson Park. Walking paths, lights for the tennis courts (having never been there before), water sources, and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance improvements, are some of the planned projects funded under the Clean California Grant awarded in February. Public Works Director Travis Reed stated that having the Willdan Engineering survey cover all improvement projects (whether funded by Clean California, ARPA, DCIP, etc.) is efficient and covers the future. 

Travis Reed also presented a resolution to amend a professional services agreement with Willdan Engineering for an analysis of Class 3 defects to the sewer system. Reed gave an update on Phase I and Phase II of the sewer project, emphasizing the prioritization of class level defects and the importance of a comprehensive list to be considered over the next five years. Council members approved the resolution and commended Reed, as well as Parks and Recreation Director Narissa Wegener, for being proactive on behalf of the city. 

Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, sitting in for City Manager Ron Strand, addressed the seriousness of Mike Neel’s view that citizens should be armed against crime. Chief McLaughlin reported that citizens may lawfully be trained and licensed to CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon); however, it is not necessarily appropriate for every person, and individuals should be assessed for such readiness. The chief spoke about the importance of such consideration. Council Members Breeden and Hayman expressed that it is the responsibility of all citizens to support the police, that defunding police is wrong, and the city must take charge now to work on safety and security for the entire community.

Mayor Bruen commented on a variety of updates and events. The Wayfinder Project still wants additional signage to direct visitors to the city and valley. The Quality of Life Committee reports that Movie Night is scheduled for October 14. The annual “Trunk or Treat” Halloween event is being planned for October 28 from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p,m. He encouraged other council members to be there with treats and greet the public. Along with the “Trash Talk Town Hall” event of September 14, the opportunities to meet city government representatives and learn about the things that matter to the community are numerous. “I encourage the public to attend City Council and committee meetings,” Bruen said. “We welcome your input and serve with and for you on everything that is going on.”