Supervisor Couch, staff work on demolition of burned out buildings
The axe is starting to fall on some of the worst derelict structures in unincorporated Taft.
Supervisor David Couch's office announced that demolition would be coming very soon for two burned-out buildings in South Taft and there is more to come.
Code enforcement issues have been a major topic in Taft for years and a target of local business and political leaders who want to see the entire community cleaned up.
With a new supervisor in office, the work is now underway.
A burned out former house at 207 Naylor and another structure on the 100 block of Lierly will be the next to go.
This comes after the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved levying liens on two pieces of property on the 200 block of D Street to recover the cost of demolition of houses there.
Couch's staff said more demolitions and code enforcement actions are in the works.
But it's a long, arduous process from the first notice of code violations until abatement takes place.
"The process we're doing is monotonous," Couch said Wednesday at the Taft Chamber of Commerce' weekly Sit n' Sip.
Couch and staff members Mark Salvaggio, Alan Christiansen and Ryan Schultz spent much of the day in Taft.
There's also a lot of work to be done and not enough people to do the work.
"We's got 80 cases on the books in Taft alone," Salvaggio said.
Chamber of Commerce executive Director Kathy Orrin wouldn't argue with that.
She went on a tour with several members of the Greater Taft Economic Development Authority last week.
She didn't like what she saw, especially near Conley School.
"Some of these places frankly need to be torn down," she said Tuesday night at the Taft City Council. "Some of them have been tagged but they haven't been torn down yet. In some places kids have to walk out in the street to get around the debris. Some kids walk by five burned houses just to get to school."
There is only one code enforcement officer for the entire Fourth District, something that Couch said he wants to change.
"I am asking that the county hire some more code enforcement officers," Couch said. "The code enforcement officer is the start of cleaning up the blight."
The code enforcement officer's job can be difficult. One was at the condemned building on Naylor Tuesday and twice had to get Sheriff's deputies to help with squatters living in the burned ruins.
The two demolitions in South Taft come after the county demolished two houses on D Street last year. The Board of Supervisors recently approved placing liens on the properties to recover the cost of those demolitions.
Salvaggio said more demolitions are in the process.
He said the county will be making "major announcements" in the coming months.
He also said the county is working on code enforcement issues in the Victory Square area, too.
The night before, two members of the Taft City Council said they were impressed with the actions the county has taken since Couch took office last month.
Couch often spoke of cleaning up unincorporated Taft during the campaign in 2012.
"So far he's a man of his word," Councilman Ron Waldrop said. "I told him we were going to hold him to it. So far my hats off to him."
"They've been very aggressive over here," Councilman Randy Miller said. "I'm very, very happy with the progress we've made over here in a month and a half."