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Council approves $1M for repairs to Kerr McGee

By Susan Read News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council’s regular meeting on August 3, 2022, opened with a presentation by Stewart Gary, Public Safety Principal for Citygate Associates, LLC, on the cost allocation study of fire service to Ridgecrest. Supported by Kern County Fire Deputy Chief Zachary Wells and Fire Division Chief Bill Steers, Gary addressed fire service deployment, outcome goals and factors of value at risk. Charts listed the staffing and station data summaries for the city’s stations K74 and K77. Of considerable concern is the effect on fire service should one of the stations be closed due to insufficient funding. Citygate’s recommendations are that, as revenues permit, the city should continue to have two fire stations and associated personnel. Gary asked the city to review the recommendations of the study and provide policy direction to staff in the coming months. The entire “Standards of Cover and Community Risk Assessment Study” is located on the city’s webpage for community viewing. In response to a question by Ron Porter during the public comment time, City Manager Ron Strand reported that Ridgecrest pays approximately 76 percent of the full costs for stations K74 and K77.

Several subjects not on the council’s agenda included public comments about the proposed measure to raise local sales tax by one percent, from 8.25 to 9.25 percent. Additionally, citizen Mary Ella expressed concern about Waste Management trash service pricing, especially for senior citizens, and the inability to exchange available receptacles from one size to another. Mayor Eric Bruen stated that a representative from Waste Management will be at the next City Council meeting.

Council member Solomon Rajaratnam announced that the city Planning Committee has plans for installation of an electric vehicle (EV) charging station at the corner of China Lake Boulevard and French Avenue. The first of its kind in the city, there will be 23 level 2 and 3 charging stations.

Scott Hayman / Laura Austin Photo

Scott Hayman, City Council’s representative to the IWV Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) Board gave the details of the board’s recently approved actions. The first action gave the board authority to award a contract for a water import pipeline alignment study. The pipeline would run from the IWV Basin south to the Antelope Valley East Kern Water Station. The next action authorized a request for bids for monitoring wells and drilling services. in the Rose Valley/Little Lake Gap area. The final authorization was for the Water Resource Manager to prepare a water recycling feasibility study for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Funding, gathering data to allow the applications for grants. “I continue to say, and believe wholeheartedly, that water sustainability for this valley, for everybody who lives here now and those who want to live here in the future, is a top priority. We continue to work toward that goal.”

The big ticket item for discussion and action was the resolution to appropriate a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to replace partitions and flooring in the Kerr McGee Center gym and banquet hall. Parks and Recreation Director Nerissa Wegener indicated the disrepair in photographs of floors and partitions that are original to the 1989 facility. Wegener reported that the total cost estimate is $1,032,603 and, if the total actual costs are lower, the remaining money will be returned to fund other ARPA projects. City Council unanimously approved the recommendation to authorize the Finance Director to allocate funds and allow City Manager Strand to sign the contract. Mayor Bruen reminded the forum that a listing of city projects was presented at a prior City Council meeting.

The resolution to establish additional fees for encroachment permits was detailed by Travis Reed, Public Works Director. Reed said that the city must look ahead for grant funding that will cover curbs, gutters and sidewalks that meet American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Ridgecrest is one of the few cities with a transition plan and Quality Assurance Program to address those issues. A study revealed that additional costs for curb and gutter staking per linear foot had not been included in the budget. Reed stated what the basic and additional fee structure should be and requested that the Finance Director amend the budget to reflect the correct permit fees to be effective immediately. City Council moved and approved the motion.  

Responding to community member Chuck Roulund’s request that the public comment time limits be reconsidered and publicized, Council member Peggy Breeden asked that the subject be included as a future agenda item. Breeden asked that the council find a way to respect time limits without responding at length to the public commenter, utilizing the allotted time. Mayor Bruen agreed that the subject be re-defined at an upcoming meeting, saying “Communication is a priority for us.”

On behalf of the City Council, member Kyle Blades invited the public to a “Let’s Talk” community outreach event. Attendees will have the opportunity to talk directly with City Council and staff members, and share questions, comments, and concerns. The gathering takes place on Thursday, August 18, 2022, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the gazebo/splash pad area on the City Hall grounds. There will be free ice cream for children.

Ridgecrest City Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. Meetings are live-streamed on YouTube and may be accessed via the city’s webpage, where the YouTube links are archived for later viewing.