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Mayor Eric Bruen / Laura Austin Photo

Outlook Conference message from Ridgecrest Mayor Eric Bruen

Ridgecrest Mayor Eric Bruen–

This is a major portion of the message that Mayor Eric Bruen delivered to the IWV Economic Outlook Conference.  In his opening statement, he said, Today, we’ll focus on three keywords: rebuild, Reinvest, and Retain.

First, let’s think about rebuilding. In 2019, we had the earthquakes. While traumatic for many of us, this quote, “The greatest opportunities are brilliantly disguised as impossible situations,” truly sums up exactly what it’s become for us.

The earthquakes became a catalyst for this community, and my presentation today will focus on what we’ve accomplished as a community to move this city forward. I hope to show you that momentum is truly with us. We begin our rebuilding with our events of 2023. In August, we had Hurricane Hillary, and this was a thousand-year storm. Everybody who was here in 1984 remembers that it was 2.7 inches and created trauma for so many people. This was over 5.5 inches and I believe that the city and all of our agencies worked so well together that there was very minimal impact. You know what was the worst part? We saw Pearson Park turn into a lake. We were able to protect the Richmond School Project. We were able to work together filling sandbags. It’s an example of what we started in working together as a city and as a community.

The next rebuild, of course, is our streets. Over the last year we’ve done 20.3 miles worth of roads in this town. We had a backlog of over $8 million worth of projects that COVID delayed that we have now moved forward. These projects are moving quickly and we have been fixing roads faster than we have in our history.

Of course, any conversation on roads must include Carmageddon. I understand many of you are frustrated by the work on China Lake Boulevard. But this was infrastructure work that is going to make sure that our sewer plant, when we get to the wastewater plant, is able to support our capacity. But more importantly, this is the 75-year infrastructure that had to be repaired. Think about the amount of work that was done. We went all the way down California, all the way up China Lake to Argus. We’ve been replacing those pipelines. And I’m proud to report that last night, we heard at our public works that we are putting the last pipe in place, and we are within weeks of slowly seeing this project come to an end. So Carmageddon, ladies and gentlemen, is coming to an end. I can’t promise, however, that you will not encounter other construction delays because construction continues all over town.

Next is the rebuilding of our wastewater treatment plant. We are making great progress on this project. I know that some people in this room truly understand how long this project has been in motion. My good friend Mr. Holloway and I were advocating for this project way back in 2011 in Washington, D.C. Now, in 2024, we’re finally seeing it come to fruition. We hope to be breaking ground on the wastewater plant hopefully in 2025 and seeing it in operation by 2027. That plant is so overdue for work. It is ridiculous. And guys, I know none of us want to see wastewater backed up—none of us.

We move from rebuilding to reinvesting. We recently started the work at the Leroy Jackson Sports Complex. This is $3.8 million of improvements, supported by the California Clean California Grant. We are doing an incredible number of things over there. We are repairing lights, we are repairing fields, we are repairing walkways, we are putting in shade structures, we are putting in bathrooms, we are resurfacing tennis courts. Once again, we are going to make Leroy Jackson Sports Complex an example of excellent community facilities.

When somebody comes to this town and says, wow, what are the facilities like? They go, those are fantastic. That’s how we keep our people here. We make sure that our facilities are always at our very, very best. This is a project that’s taken about two years to come to fruition. I’m very excited to see how it is coming together. One of the cool things that we did in this project was we made sure that the walking path was handicap accessible. When completed, it will allow somebody in a wheelchair to traverse the entire length of the park. Anybody who’s ever been there saw there’s this walking path that kind of stops into nowhere, right? Well, that’ll be completed. And we learned something else from the floods.

Remember I said we had the Pearson Park flood? You know what we learned? We finally learned how to grow grass. It took us 60 years. But what happened was when we had to close Pearson Park because of the amount of water and all the dirt that had flooded, which made this entire dirt pile in the center of the park. It destroyed the grass. So, we took this opportunity and replanted with different seeds and different soils and I dare anyone to go out there and not be impressed by the results. We’re going to take those lessons and apply them to our Kerr McGee ball fields, our parks, and, obviously, the fields at Leroy Jackson Park.

One announcement everyone is waiting to hear is when we are breaking ground on Pinney Pool. Pinney Pool is coming, I promise you. We are making great progress with it. We hope to have a presentation for the community in April and we intend to break ground by this summer.

We made a commitment as a council, and I want to thank my fellow council members, Solomon Rajaratnam, Kyle Blades, Skip Gorman, and Doc Hayman. We committed to this at the beginning, and we’re going to see this through. We put the financing together by resolution just last night. We still have one more piece to do. But we are making great, great progress. It is 60 percent towards final plans and it is our intent to open by the summer of 2025.

Reinvesting also includes public safety. And that means taking the funds granted by this community through Measure P and making sure that we fulfill those promises. The first was making sure that public safety was secured. We have restored all of our officer positions, and we are actively and constantly recruiting officers. Everyone knows and everyone hears that what has happened to police officers in this nation is tragic. Simply tragic. They defend our lives, they defend our property, they defend our families. And we have treated them like they are somehow indentured servants to people. We are not doing that here in Ridgecrest. We are committed to our police force and we are committed to ensuring they have the resources to do their job.

Through this community’s commitment to Measure V, we’ve continued to do that. I encourage everyone to understand that half of our police force is financed through Measure V. Our road work is financed through Measure V.

We are continuing to make sure that we have committed those resources for public safety, including the approval of the Flock Safety System last night to put license plate readers throughout this community in order to lower retail theft, auto theft, burglary, and other areas. We intend to continue to make our officers as efficient as possible. The more time they save in investigation, the more time they have to protect our community.

Another aspect of Measure P was protecting our fire department. We have secured our fire contract moving forward for several years, and we saw in return two new fire engines delivered to our community in the last 18 months. Thank you to Supervisor Peters for the commitment to protecting our community. Our fire services, our police services, and our overall public safety will remain our top priority. Thank you again, citizens, as much of this is driven by Measure V and Measure P.

Why are we doing these?

Because you know what, when we bring people together, they feel a sense of community. They begin to attach. They recognize their neighbors; they recognize their coworkers, and they recognize that feeling.

When we bring kids together in tree lighting, do you know what they do? They go, mommy, I love this. I’m so excited. You know what that does? That makes one more hook, one more dedication to the City of Ridgecrest. One more commitment to being here, being part of this community. We’re going to continue these events, and we have six of them planned for this year. In addition to our efforts that we approved last night in adding another analyst to work towards bringing a full-fledged Ridgecrest Farmers market to this community, hopefully by May or June of this year. We are committed to bringing this community together over and over and over and over again.

In summary, momentum is with Ridgecrest and with our future. We are investing in the key areas we can improve and supporting and advocating the areas outside of our control. We have begun the greatest infrastructure rebuilding period since the 1980s and, with that, will continue to look to the needs of our community.