Kern County 2022 – Year in Review
From our Supervisor
December 31, 2022
Major Developments and Deliverables
20th Street West in Rosamond saw the completion of pedestrian safety improvements with the construction beginning in February 2021 and was completed in Summer 2022. The improvements were part of a Safe Routes to School Project and this location was selected due to the proximity to Rosamond Elementary School. The project constructed nearly 1 mile of sidewalks, pedestrian paths, ADA curb ramps and higher visibility crosswalks to ensure a safe ADA-accessible environment for Rosamond Elementary School students and all to benefit from. In 2016, Kern County Public Works applied for a grant through Caltrans' Active Transportation Program (ATP) and were awarded the grant. In total, the project cost approximately $1,800,000 with Kern County Public Works funding $365,310, an ATP grant for $880,000, and a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from Kern County Planning and Natural Resources for $554,690.
Boron High School Swimming Pool
"The community swimming pool located on the Boron High School campus was not only restored but it was transformed!"
This project was one of the best examples of public-private partnership seen in a long time. Members of the Boron Community contacted my office in October of 2020 asking for help. Their community pool was in dire need of refurbishment. My staff and community members got to work raising $65,000 in less than one year. Rio Tinto Borax then stepped up to the plate and matched the funds raised by the community. I was happy to add $5,000 of my office discretionary funds and State Senator Shannon Grove was able to secure state infrastructure funding. The new community pool facility will be open full time for the community to enjoy this coming summer.
Understanding how State policies and mandates impacting Kern's oil and gas industry are affecting the County's tax base, and with that the County's tax revenue growth, voters passed Measure K, which provides a new locally dedicated, locally controlled revenue source to maintain public safety and other vital front line services for unincorporated areas of our County. This 1 cent sales tax measure is estimated to raise $54 million in the first year of its implementation that will be utilized by the Board of Supervisors to address critical priorities within our unincorporated communities, identified by residents in a series of public engagement efforts conducted by the County this past year. Among the top priorities are the public safety services provided by the Kern County Sheriff's Department. Dealing head on with extraordinary recruitment and retention challenges within our Sheriff's Department will be a catalyst for filling current vacancies, filling our substations, and putting more law enforcement on our streets throughout the unincorporated areas we serve.
While Measure K will be a major catalyst in dealing with the Sheriff's Department staffing challenges, among other areas of business, the Board has taken action this past year on a number of fronts to build upon the investments made to bolster recruitment and retention in our Sheriff's Department. We have created a new classification titled Sheriff's Community Service Technician to relieve Deputies from non-critical incident reporting duties and place them in a capacity to provide needed public safety functions on the street. We have extended a $25,000 signing bonus for Deputy Sheriffs who lateral to Kern County from other agencies around the country, in addition to a relocation stipend of $5,000. We have also worked hand in hand with the Sheriff to restructure the assignment process for these lateral transfers to ensure that those with valuable patrol experience are not placed immediately in a jail assignment. Incentivizing lateral transfers to the Kern County Sheriff's Department saves our County both time and money because these recruits do not need to be put through a training academy. This past year, all Sheriff Deputy ranks received raises in compensation, and we've implemented a monthly housing allowance of $2,000, that will be used incentivize patrol deputies in rural substations to also reside in those areas of assignment, which has been an extraordinary operational challenge. We have also increased compensation for Sheriff's Dispatcher as part of the SEIU class study, as well as implementing a 25 percent increase in Sheriff's Aide compensation to fill critical facility roles that are otherwise covered by Sheriff's Detentions mandatory overtime. Our Board will be working in the early part of next year to address the staffing crisis challenging our Sheriff's Detentions personnel. This crisis underpins Department wide staffing challenges, and having it addressed will be a key component in expanding the number of patrols deployed on streets throughout our region.
The budget deficit in our County's Fire Fund has been addressed, and we are now working to address a backlog of critical equipment and station repair needs of this crucial First Responder department. In 2021, the Board of Supervisors invested $10 million in new equipment for the Kern County Fire Department. This year, the Board of Supervisors has approved an additional $18 million for needed new equipment, including replacement of a heavily used, old, Vietnam era helicopter, which is crucial in battling wildfire, protecting rural communities and saving lives.
Parks and Recreational Opportunities
Investment in recreational spaces for our residents remains a top priority to the Board. This past year, the Board approved historic investment for County parks, with the help of Federal economic assistance, State of California Proposition 68 grants and other funding sources. The Board has approved nearly $45 million in upgrades in most of our County parks, with many parks slated to be either completely redeveloped, or receive considerable infrastructure improvement over the next two years.
Read More About District 2 Park Improvements here: files.constantcontact.com/c240cf7f001/484ab87c-350e-4dc0-a14d-41a463249400.pdf.
After many of our library branches were closed do to the pandemic, all of our libraries have reopened, although for far fewer days and hours than we would like. Our limited hours are a reflection of budget priorities, and the limited resources of the County's general fund, again a result of stagnant year over year growth in County property and sales tax revenue. This coming year, the Board of Supervisors will be considering the expansion in the number of days each of our libraries are open, beginning with those libraries located in County unincorporated areas and building into other locations, including branches located within the City of Bakersfield, as well as other city jurisdictions. I'm pleased to report that this year the Board of supervisors has approved the expenditure of almost $13 million in State grant funding for major infrastructure improvements at 17 of our library locations around the County. This funding will be utilized to update aging buildings, and provide new infrastructure that will enhance user experience in these branches.
The Board of Supervisors continues to be focused on strengthening and diversifying the County's regional economy. This means attracting and supporting new business in sectors such as carbon management and renewable fuel production and innovation, aerospace, business services, logistics and advanced manufacturing. We are also continuing to promote and support our County's position as a national energy and agricultural leader. This means continuing to strengthen our position as an alternative energy leader among all counties in the State of California, while maintaining our position as a national leader in oil and gas production through responsible, streamlined permitting and long-term planning. Over the next several years, the County will consider billions of dollars in new energy investment and logistics projects that will lead this diversification effort. This past year, all local, State and Federal approvals were given for the construction of the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino project that will be built just south of Bakersfield. This new project will have an annual $80 million payroll and employ up to 3,000 people from our region, in addition to bringing a new and extraordinary entertainment destination for our local residents and those living outside our region, alike.
Aided with one-time funding received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), this past year, the County entered into a 3-year agreement with the City to provide an enhanced "City Equivalent" level of graffiti abatement service in the unincorporated metro-Bakersfield area. This will build on the City's program of state of the art paint matching equipment, robust staffing, and a mobile reporting application to provide an equal city/county service level and avoiding duplicate investments. This not only increases service levels but also simplifies the constituents experience as it eliminates jurisdictional boundaries and is a more efficient use to scarce taxpayer resources. This contract also allows the County to focus existing resources in other unincorporated areas. Thus, increasing the level of graffiti abatement services throughout the County.
The County continues to fight an epidemic of homelessness here in our region, like so many other areas of California. Our fight is not just focused on services, job training and housing for these individuals, but also on the negative effects homelessness is having on our neighborhoods, businesses, parks and public rights of way. It is a daunting challenge, filled with various complexities and rules of law, that frustrate those of us being held accountable to deal with these issues. This year the Board of Supervisors implemented new local rules aimed at disrupting and eliminating homeless encampments in public areas. Part of this effort was an extraordinary expansion of teams of County mental health professionals partnered with law enforcement to engage encampment hot spots, along economic corridors and our Kern River Parkway. Our 150 bed low barrier Navigation Center located on M Street in Bakersfield is full and hundreds of individuals have received help and services. This year we created a safe camping area in a section of our M Street location that is also currently full. This safe camping area currently has over 50 individuals who are no longer camping in public areas, and who are now receiving supportive services administered by professional staff. Over 20 individuals have been moved directly into permanent housing from this safe camping area this year. We have created navigation centers in Arvin and Delano, to address homeless populations in those important areas of our County. Importantly, the County broke ground this past year on the construction of two new, multimillion dollar, in-patient psychiatric hospitals that will be utilized to address the needs of those individuals walking our streets, suffering from severe mental health issues. Early next year, the Board will consider development of a non-congregant supportive housing facility with full wrap around services for up to 50 additional individuals experiencing homelessness, further expanding the number of tools we have in our community to bring to this important fight.
Internet Access and the Digital Divide
This past September, the Board of Supervisors finalized approval of a $400 million joint County/City of Bakersfield project with SiFi Networks to install a fiber optic high-speed Internet network throughout Metro-Bakersfield, including the City of Bakersfield and unincorporated County areas, in addition to surrounding areas including the communities of Lamont and Fuller Acres, at no cost to the County. This project will provide all homes, businesses, schools and every other property in these areas access to high-speed Internet connectivity, in addition to bolstering competition among providers that will drive down costs for consumers. This project is completely privately funded. In addition to the construction costs, SiFi will be covering all County costs such as permitting, inspections, and funding for a single point of contact to interface between the County and SiFi through the duration of this project. In total this project is estimated to cost SiFi $400 million, with over $200 million to build and operate just the Kern
County portion of the project. The project is expected to break ground between March and May of 2023 and will take a total of three to four years to complete. However, construction would proceed in a phased approach and fiber connections to individual premises beginning as soon as fiber installation in front of that premises is completed. So as portions of the project are completed, they will be accessible to potential customers. SiFi is not an internet service provider; they simply construct and own the fiber optic network. SiFi operates this network openly, allowing third-party internet service providers access to provide services over the network in a competitive marketplace. SiFi is under construction with similar projects in the cities of Fullerton, Placentia, Simi Valley, and Rancho Cordova. Additionally, they are under contract for construction in 14 other California cities and Yuba County. In the cities under construction, internet services are being offered over the completed portions of the network by GigabitNow, Ting, and Flume Internet, with services advertised at $60 and $69 per month for residential service with 350Mbps and 1-Gbps symmetrical speeds respectively.
Jim Williford Park Pool
Work has begun on the Rosamond Community Pool located at Jim Williford Park. The project consists of the removal and replacement of the existing concrete paving at the pool area and re-plastering of the existing pools. Removal and replacement of the concrete walks to provide an accessible route into the site and compliant accessible parking stalls will also be installed. Restrooms serving the pool area including the office will be remodeled to be compliant with the current California Building Code. Black Hall construction is the Contractor. The construction contract value is $1,734,226. Our expectation is to open the pool for the summer of 2023.
"The completion of the pool renovation will be a significant deliverable for the community of Rosamond by the County of Kern, and I'm very pleased we were able to budget for this significant financial investment for the families in the area".