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Many city street repairs near completion

By Susan Read News Review Staff Writer– May 3rd’s Ridgecrest City Council meeting was filled with the good news of road project completions.  Staffing Alternatives & Specialized Services

City Manager Ron Strand called on Public Works Director Travis Reed to provide updates on the many road projects underway around the city. Council members have said they are always asked questions about road repairs by the public, and Reed named a few that are nearing completion. Ward Avenue is approximately 95 percent finished, with lining manholes, chip sealing, and final striping expected to be done within a week. Warner Street is near 90 percent completion, and Franklin Avenue is 99 percent complete. “Of these three major projects,” Reed said, “everything will be complete by August.”

Reed was pleased to report that road construction engineering was significantly under budget; therefore, he has added concrete improvements and some others that were deleted in the FY22 Measure V project. He expects that work to cost approximately $600,000 and will bring it to the Council for consideration and approval at its May 17 meeting.

Mayor Eric Bruen presented a Key to the City plaque to Janis Bottorff of Staffing Alternatives & Specialized Services (S.A.S.S.) Employment Agency and a local Chamber of Commerce member. Bottorff has been a committed volunteer for many years and coordinates the annual “Star Follies” chamber fundraiser, now in its 29th year. Local citizens and leaders participate in the fun theater-style production, which is always a hit with the community.

Mayor Pro Tem Solomon Rajaratnam read the proclamation acknowledging the National Day of Prayer and Ridgecrest Mayor’s Breakfast on Thursday, May 4, 2023. The event was held at Desert Christian Center and sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club. Kiwanis member Larry Bird received the proclamation. Rajaratnam noted that this national observance had been a part of the American heritage since George Washington was President and has been recognized in Ridgecrest for the past 27 years.

Vice Mayor Kyle Blades presented the National Police Week proclamation to Ridgecrest Police Captain Justin Dampier. Blades told the assembled police officers and Police Explorers that they are the backbone of the community, instilling confidence, trust, and respect in our citizens. National Police Week is from May 14th to the 20th this year.

Captain Dampier then called Police Chaplain Eddie Thomas to the podium. Chaplain Thomas retired in November 2022 after serving as pastor of Victory Baptist Church for 30 years. During the last 18 years, Thomas has been a uniformed chaplain to the Police Department. The Department’s Sergeant Nathan Lloyd presented the plaque, noting that it was the chaplain’s final day in that role, and he will be missed for his steady counsel and devotion to the men and women in local law enforcement.

The next set of awards was personally unique to Sergeant Lloyd, who runs the Police Explorers Program for young men and women ages 12 to 21.  “We help them see the workings of the department, teach them life lessons, help with schoolwork, and help them plan for the future,” Lloyd said. He then presented the annual Explorer of the Year award to his brother, Stephen Lloyd. A “retirement” plaque was given to Kiana Lee, a former Explorer and advisor to the group who is moving on, having just finished year three of the Police Reserve Program and focusing on her law enforcement career. The final plaque of appreciation was given to NCIS Agent Jimmy Song of the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS), China Lake, who has been a mentor and assistant with the Police Explorers Program since 2020.

Committee Reports were the final agenda items of the evening. Vice Mayor Blades stated that traffic studies were among the topics covered by the Infrastructure Committee, and the Economic Development Committee heard recruitment and development updates. He also said that he, Bill Farris, Jr., and City Manager Ron Strand would be attending the ICSE Conference (International Conference on Software Engineering) in mid-May.

Mayor Bruen’s Parks, Recreation, and Quality of Life report noted that the second Sgt. Pinney Pool Town Hall meeting was held, with a third one expected to be held in early to mid-June to present continued progress. “We hope to have plans and construction documents in early July so we can break ground early in 2024,” Bruen said.

Megan McKenzie represented the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB)with a recap of April 26, 2023, board meeting. The “Run with the Burros” event was successful, particularly in that there were 145 entries, with only 29 of them local, a boost to visitor occupancy. The Builtwell 100 race has also been a success, potentially expanding to a two-day event. The RACVB is working with the Desert Empire Fairgrounds to improve the venue for future events, like the rodeo. McKenzie also reported that filming in the area is going along well.

Petroglyph tours are always of great interest to the community and its visitors, and McKenzie said that the ideal plan is to resume tours by the spring of 2024. Currently, guided tour access to the petroglyphs will be limited to only eight tours per spring and fall season. The bureau is discussing with NAWS, China Lake, to permit earlier November access for the annual Petroglyph Festival. That still needs to be confirmed.

In a related item, the Petroglyph Education Foundation is looking for passionate people with time, willingness, and availability to focus on the cultural importance of Native American tribes to the region. Contact the RACVB for further information.

Finally, McKenzie reported that the Hampton Inn will have 30 rooms offline for renovation beginning July 1, 2023. The Veterans Business Bureau will have an event on 17 May, and information may be obtained at the Chamber of Commerce.

The next City Council meeting will be on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at 6 p.m. and can be viewed live on the city’s webpage or later on the YouTube channel.