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Girl Scouts Savannah Doser (Left) and Elizabeth Brown (Right) of Troop 8147 take a tour of Ridgecrest police officer Logan Bebee’s police car. / Laura Austin Photo

Council made presentations to RC transit drivers, City employees, and local Girl Scouts

By Helen Tomlin News Review Staff Writer–  The Ridgecrest City Council met last Wednesday with three Presentations, three Public Comments, a Proclamation, and three Discussion/Action items.  Four council members were present, and Mayor Eric Bruen attended via Zoom.

On behalf of all five councilmen, Mayor Pro Tem Solomon Rajaratnam honored the Ridgecrest transit drivers.  In his presentation, he acknowledged their ability to keep a schedule, check fares, and “safely maneuver the vehicles through unpredictable traffic and adverse weather conditions.”  Two drivers accepted Rajaratnam’s award.  He said, “Transit operators don’t have an easy job. They just make it look that way.”

Next, Employee Service Awards were given. The largest milestone was presented to Jeff Donnally, who has worked for Parks and Recreation for 25 years. Two more Parks and Recreation employees were acknowledged: Robert Barksdale, who has served ten years, and Robert Cole, who has served five. Also serving five years were Todd Lower in Public Works and Daniel Pietrangelo in the Police Department.

During his Presentation to the Girl Scouts, Councilman Kyle Blades told the audience he had given Troop #8147 a tour of City Hall.  At the Police Department, they met acting Police chiefs, Captain Aaron Tucker and Officer Logan Bebee.  Bebee showed the girls his police car.

Blades told the girls they are the future of this state and country, and “the things you are doing right now mean so much to everybody—a lot more than most of us realize.”  After Blades’ presentation, the scout leader gave the police department 40 stuffed animals they had made.

During Public Comments, Robert Blackwell spoke on behalf of the Kawaiisu tribe.  He thanked City Manager Ron Strand and City Clerk Ricca Charlon for their professionalism and timeliness in answering the tribe’s recent FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.  The tribe sought to find out how the City’s Petroglyph art was procured, especially the ones they found objectionable.  He said it appears taxpayers’ funds were given to a separate agency to commission the art.  Referring to metal artist and councilman Skip Gorman, Blackwell said, “We still believe there are issues with one of the councilmen, who should recuse himself [when an art vote is brought on the floor].”  He said the tribe will continue to walk through this process.

Tom Wiknich also spoke. He complained about the slow traffic signal on Radar and Upjohn.  Even though the city had recently spent $80,000 to fix it, he said it takes almost three minutes to make a left turn at that intersection.  He concluded by asking, “So what is my time worth?  How about my gas?”  He said if this intersection is brought up on Facebook, “people go crazy!”  He said if the people’s time at the intersection is not important, perhaps a dispatched officer’s time might be.  Rajaratnam promised he would have the staff “look into that matter,” and Mayor Eric Bruen thanked Wiknich for the information and asked the Public Works Director to reach out to him.

The last speaker was Troy Frazier. He asked permission to put water buckets on the lawn near the skate park at LeRoy Jackson Park for birds. “There’s a whole lot of starving big birds.”

During the Consent Calendar section, City Clerk Ricca Charlon announced there will be a “Respect for Law” dinner on March 23 at the Kerr McGee Community Center.

Public Works Director Travis Reed asked that the Council reimburse Sierra Sands Unified School District (SSUSD) to construct three additions of box culverts on East Gold Canyon Street.  The cost will be $250,800 plus a 10 percent contingency of $22,800 for any unanticipated expenses.  Reed said, “This will be the third area where the City has sought to alleviate flooding issues.” He requested Drainage Impact Funds be allocated for this and that the council authorize Strand to execute all agreements relating to the project.  This was unanimously approved.

City Planner Heather Spurlock said California mandates all jurisdictions submit an Annual Progress Report (APR) on the status and progress of the Housing Element and General Plan. Her 2023 plan must be submitted by April 1 to the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

Spurlock showed pictures of various houses in our community and gave the numbers of how many were entitled, completed, and permitted. She also gave a summary of the “General Plan Progress,” which includes Land Use Element (e.g., drainage), Circulation Element (e.g., transit and streets), Health and Safety Element (e.g., SSUSD law enforcement services), Community Design Services, and Open Space and Conservation Element (e.g., bathrooms, park roofs, and shade structures at parks).  She said, “There is no standard form or format for the General Plan and some were prepared using forms and tables specified by the department.  For more information, see the attachment to this City Council Meeting’s Agenda at the City of Ridgecrest’s website.  The Council unanimously approved this resolution.

Finally, City Manager Ron Strand asked the council to approve a resolution to donate two digital transmitters valued at $13,000 to the Indian Wells Valley TV Boosters, Inc.  Strand said these boosters have been providing free TV and radio to the valley since the 1950s and ‘60s.  He said, “As you’ll recall, a couple of months ago, they needed help with a couple of digital TV transmitters. We donated that equipment, and they came back to us last budget cycle and stated they had the need for two additional units.” Council had approved that request during the budget process. Strand desired “to finalize and get approval from the council to so we can enter an agreement and they can get their equipment.”   This motion was unanimously approved.

There were no Committee Reports, so the meeting ended with a report about upcoming streetlight problems. Reed said, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s just the nature of the beast.” A “comprehensive upgrade” is happening, which necessitates delays and temporary imperfections because of cost. He assured Mr. Wiknich that “Radar is first on our list.”