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Laura Austin Photos / “Emergency Medical Services Week,” pictured participants at the City Council presentation are Top: Liberty Ambulance, Center: Kern County Fire Department, and Bottom: the Ridgecrest Police Department with City Council members.

Councilman Blades proclaims May 19-24 as EMS Week

By Helen Tomlin News Review Staff Writer–
Last week’s City Council meeting began with “the longest list of proclamations in the last four years,” according to Mayor pro tem Solomon Rajaratnam, who officiated the meeting in Mayor Eric Bruen’s absence. The proclamations honored Ridgecrest’s emergency medical services, police, and public works.

Councilman Kyle Blades began by proclaiming May 19-24 as “Emergency Medical Services Week,” which includes Liberty Ambulance, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, Kern County Fire Department, and the Ridgecrest Police Department.  He praised each member’s dedication and hard work and stated their theme is “Honoring Our Past, Forging Our Future.”  He encouraged the community to observe this week and thank them.

Councilman Scott Hayman proclaimed May 12-18 as Police Week, and specifically May 15 as “Peace Officers’ Memorial Day,” to honor the courageous deeds made by those who were disabled or died while performing their duties. He said, “I’m really proud of Ridgecrest’s police department.” He commended them for doing a “fantastic job” of protecting and saving the lives of the citizens of Ridgecrest.

Councilmen Skip Gorman made the last presentation, proclaiming May 19-25 as “Public Works Week.” He recognized the people who tirelessly work in the areas of water, sewer, streets, wastewater treatment, solid waste collection, airport operations, and fleet and building maintenance. He said these people “are a vital and integral part of our citizens’ everyday lives.”

City Engineer Travis Reed approached the podium to personally honor these workers. He said some work at the wastewater facility, which was built in the 1940s, is “one of the oldest in California.”  He said other workers “give it their all” on the street construction. He said he has some “new hires” and thanked the senior staff for “really stepping up lately.”  He said the trash service has improved significantly, with fewer complaints from the public.

Everything on the Consent Calendar was unanimously passed without discussion except one item pulled by Councilman Blades. He requested City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz explain the reason the cost of solid waste services would be increased by 5.7 percent.  The attorney said 3.1 percent was a carry-over from last year’s contract and 2.1 percent was added to that.  This new rate goes into effect July 1.

The first Discussion and Action item concerned Desert Valley Credit Union (DV) ‘s offer to buy city land. Since Rajaratnam is a DV employee, he recused himself and left the room.

After his exit, City Planner Heather Spurlock gave a PowerPoint presentation that showed a 1.46-acre parcel located just east of DV on the corner of Ward and McLean.  This parcel is a slice of a larger piece of land “that has been part of the long-range property management plan” for sale since 2015.  DV is offering its appraisal price of $250,000.

Gorman asked if this parcel was part of what would have been the Indian casino and Spurlock said it was.  Gorman said, “I guess we get to wave goodbye to the memories of the casino.”  She agreed and said since the Bureau of Indian Affairs agreed with the entirety of the land, the agreement with the tribe is invalidated with this sale.

After the remaining three councilmen voted unanimously for the land sale, Travis Reed had four requests from the council. The first was to adopt a part-time Community Development Clerk into the Classification Plan.  For the past four to five months, the city has used a temporary SASS employee for 20 hours a week to go through building records to “get rid of duplicates and anything we don’t need to keep” to save scanning fees. Adopting this position would be “a win-win” because the city would save money and the employee could be paid a higher rate of either $18.84 or $19.78 an hour, depending on qualifications.  It was approved unanimously.

Reed’s second request was an allocation of $650,244 plus a ten percent contingency for the improvement of six tennis courts, which would include 12 pickleball courts at LeRoy Jackson Park. The contingency was needed because court resurfacing “is temperature sensitive,” and there is a narrow window before temperatures reach 110 degrees. The money comes from “Identified Funds.” The request was approved.

Reed’s third request had to do with current infrastructure projects. He said, “We picked the toughest and oldest areas in town to do the bulk of our work lately.”  He said the sewer project had run into “rotted storm drains and collapsing soils” and “found the reason for Balsam’s flooding issue.”  He said, “I want to fix everything so we’re not back in it for 50 years.”  He requested $750,000 but would “really like $1 million” to complete this project and “get the heck out of the China Lake right-of-way.” The money would come from the wastewater enterprise fund.

Hayman said the police, sewer, and roads are “meat and potato items” and that funds going to either of these three are “money well spent.”  This item was approved.

Reed’s last request was to amend a professional services agreement with Willdan Engineering for $140,446 to include additional time for inspection and management for the Phase II sewer system rehabilitation project.  He said, “We have a skeleton crew and with all the work, we’ve added 120 days to the contract with the expectation of getting paid.” His goal is to be “off that road in two weeks.”  This was approved.

  Three upcoming events were announced. First, a Budget Workshop on May 23. Second, Ridgecrest’s new Police Chief will be sworn in on June 3. And third, the Parks and Recreation Committee will give an update on the progress of Pinney Pool on June 5.