After a series of critical reports, panel has no problems with Taft this time
The Kern County Grand Jury issued another report on the city of Taft, but, unlike a series of critical reports issued over the past two years, this one found no reason to chastise city officials.
The report was issued Monday following a visit by the Grand Jury's cities and joint powers committee.
They were led on a tour of the city by then-City Manager Bob Gorson.
The report noted that Gorson told the committee that he had a “good working relationship” during the Jan. 30 visit.
Gorson suddenly resigned on Feb. 21.
Previous grand jury reports had found fault with the city, most recently last fall with the way the city accounted for a special fire reserve fund.
This report, however, had no findings, no recommendations and required no response
Here is the complete text of the report issued Monday:
CITY OF TAFT
PURPOSE OF INQUIRY:
The Cities and Joint Powers Committee (Committee) of the 2011-2012 Kern County Grand Jury met with the City Manager of Taft on January 30, 2012, pursuant to California Penal Code §925a. The Committee has not visited the City of Taft (City) since 2010. After a brief discussion, the City Manager conducted a tour of the City for the Committee.
The City was founded as an oil town in the early 1900’s and was previously called Moron. The town was a stopping point of the railroad, named by the railroad. The City was incorporated on November 7, 1910, and is now approximately 32 square miles.
The City has a General Plan in place. The City General Plan encompasses 91 square miles and includes the Maricopa Sun Project—solar farms to generate clean alternate energy.
A local farmer has spent $250,000 of personal funds to build infrastructure for an industrial park in the City.
The City is in mediation with Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Fire Service is provided by Kern County Fire Department at a cost of $1 million annually (as opposed to having the City provide its own Fire Department service).
Law enforcement is provided by Taft Police Department. The Taft Community Correctional Facility adjacent to the Police Department is currently closed.
The City has 1,878 acres zoned for residential use on the west side. The City expects to have 3,500 units built on the site, both single family dwellings and condominiums.
The City has a $3.5 million grant to implement the Fifth Street Plaza, which is the location of the Oil Workers Monument. The project will include a gazebo, picnic areas, water features and a two acre amphitheater.
The City Hall and all of its properties, except the Correctional Facility, have solar energy panels in place for energy needs. The City estimates a $1.8 million savings over a 20-year period. The solar panels at the City Hall are on top of the parking lot (carports), presenting an additional benefit of shelter for employee’s vehicles.
The Federal wastewater treatment plant uses solar power, and the City estimates that within two weeks of the Committee’s visit, the City wastewater treatment plant would also have functioning solar panels. The effluent from the wastewater treatment plant is used to grow alfalfa hay.
The City plans to take effluent from Sandy Creek to grow trees in the future.
A multi-million dollar transit center is being built on the corner of Center Street and Third Street in the City. This will be the main transfer station for local buses. A park and ride site next to the transit station will provide residents a place to park when ridesharing.
Taft Community College is recognized for its Dental Assistant Program. Recently the new Virtual Library and the new Administration Building were opened at the College. A $110 million bond funded the project. Taft Community College has recently begun a program to assist persons with special needs in their transition to independent living. Specially equipped dorms are available for these students while learning skills needed to live independently. This program is being replicated globally.
The City is working to obtain a $2.3 million grant for a 20-space truck plaza across from the West Kern Junction Shopping Center. The project will be built on a two-acre parcel near Sandy Creek and will include a retaining wall along its banks to protect the creek. The facility will enable trucks to hook up to air conditioning units, electricity and Wi-Fi, and will have bathrooms and showers. The truck plaza will be close to shopping and dining areas and will allow a safe quiet place for trucks to be in compliance with new emission laws.
The City has been working for the past four years to obtain grant funding from the Economic Development Administration to fund infrastructure.
The Sunset Rail Project is moving forward. The 47 acre site purchased from Union Pacific Railroad is a $1.6 million project. The City has selected a master developer and has eight different development projects either in place or in negotiations. These developments include two restaurants, a hotel and a 20,000 square foot mixed use building.
The City Manager indicated at the time of the Committee’s visit that a good working relationship existed with the City Council. The Committee recently learned that the City Manager has left the City.
The City of Taft should post a copy of this report where it will be available for public review.
Persons wishing to receive an email notification of newly released reports may sign up at www.co.kern.ca.us/grandjury, and click on: Sign up for early releases.
Present and past Kern County Grand Jury Final Reports and Responses can be accessed on the Kern County Grand Jury website: www.co.kern.ca.us/grandjury.
NO RESPONSE REQUIRED