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Ridgecrest City delegation goes to Washington DC

By Susan Read News Review Staff Write–

The Ridgecrest City Council kicked off its April 5, 2023, meeting with a most important and well-deserved presentation to community member Heidi Newton. Ridgecrest Police Department Captain Aaron Tucker introduced Ms. Newton and Kevin Leonard, whose life Newton saved on June 22, 2022. Leonard was walking near the corner of South Norma Street and West Bowman Avenue, pushing his young son in a stroller.

Courtesy Photo
The Leonard family w/ Heidi Newton (center)

As a weather storm brewed, Leonard was struck by lightning. Newton happened to be driving by, saw Leonard unconscious on the ground, and immediately stopped, administering CPR until paramedics arrived. With his family and council members standing by at the Life Saving Award presentation, Leonard told Newton, “I am certain that if you had not helped me, I would not be here today.” Mayor Eric Bruen commented that this is an excellent example of how Ridgecrest folks care for one another, particularly in an emergency like this.

In an additional nod to the exemplary character of Ridgecrest, Bruen commented on the passing of Frances Simpson, a long-time PACT (Police and Community Together) volunteer, who died recently at the age of 99. Frances logged over 20,000 hours of community service and was acknowledged with many citations and awards. Well-recognized and respected, Frances will sincerely be missed.

City Manager Strand and Council Member Scott Hayman reported on their recent trip to Washington, D.C. Accompanied by Kern County’s First District Supervisor Phillip Peters; the group met with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and several Senate and Congressional staffers. Subjects addressed were the Defense Communities Infrastructure Program (DCIP), the pipeline interconnection project, new wastewater treatment plant funding, and the recycled water project. “We were very pleased with the trip,” Hayman said. “Each office showed interest, well aware of California’s water issues. There will be follow-up, which will lead to other conversations.”

During the public comment section of the meeting, community member Tom Wiknich addressed the traffic light on Rader Street that is out of synchronization. He stated that the council had discussed fixing the light at a previous meeting, yet everything remained the same. Vice Mayor Kyle Blades requested that Public Works Director Travis Reed make a response to the issue. Reed said that the light’s signal controllers and advanced detection system are being attended to but must be done in sequence with other factors involved, which takes time.

Several council members took turns with their announcements, including that Ridgecrest Regional Hospital and the city are holding a community clean-up day on Saturday, April 15, between Maturango Museum and the Ridgecrest Town Center by Caldwell Banker Realty. Council Member Skip Gorman reported that April is Autism Awareness Month. Members of the First-Class Petty Officer Association and Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) Nine will be at the corner of Ridgecrest and China Lake Boulevards on Saturday, April 15, holding a carwash to raise funds in support of autism awareness.

In addition to the consent calendar was the council’s participation in a master class action lawsuit that distributes monetary settlements for fighting the opioid crisis. City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz explained that Ridgecrest had received $17,000 to date, deposited in an account strictly for this purpose. Approximately $10,000 more is expected by 2024. The funds cannot be used for anything else, and the city has 20 years to apply for the money in a manner that would diminish the effects of drug abuse. City Manager Ron Strand stated that the litigation package provides a list of reporting requirements and the approved things for which the money can be used. Strand expects staff to recommend the use of funds to the council within a future budget cycle.

Several action items were unanimously approved. First was the expenditure of $971,750 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the construction of an additional bathroom and concession facility at the Leroy Jackson Sports Complex. Ground is expected to be broken during the winter of 2023-2024. The Sewer System Management Plan update was approved, as the state Water Resources Control Board required. Re-adoption of the plan by the City Council, following a comprehensive review, is required by law every five years. An internal audit is required every two years.

City Planner Heather Spurlock requested the change of an ordinance to approve and extend tentative parcel maps and tentative tract maps. Current timelines for tentative parcel maps are 24 months, with the possibility of a one-year extension, and for tract maps, 36 months initially, with three extensions within 12 months permissible. The ordinance update request is for a total approval time of at least six years. The council approved the change following clarification and the critical discussion of response to future housing tract plans.

Committee reports noted public comments on city road work and handicap ramps, and space painting, which the Infrastructure Committee responded to, along with other minor project updates. The Economic Development Committee noted that its map had been updated and appeared on the Facebook page and city website.

Megan McKenzie, Economic Development Analyst, represented the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB) and brought good news about the bureau’s outreach efforts. The “Night on Balsam” event survey gathered 384 responses and reached over 6500 individuals. The bureau is expanding its billboard rentals and is considering revisiting its logo program. A location gallery will be created for use by film location scouts.

There will be a Veterans Business Bureau event on May 17, 2023, with details forthcoming. The annual Petroglyph Festival is planned. However, alternative petroglyph locations are being researched due to the uncertainty of access to Little Petroglyph Canyon.

The city council’s next meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at 6 p.m. The community is invited to attend in person at council chambers in City Hall, and the meeting will be live on the city’s web page. Views are recorded and available via YouTube.