Upbeat messages, plus the the city has a 5-year renewal for MCCF

City Manager Craig Jones had the big news, but longtime local local residential developer Bob Colston stole the show at the annual State of the City luncheon.

Jones announced that the city is getting a new 5-year contract to operate the Taft Modified Community Correction Facility, an important source of jobs and income to the city.

It will give the city a dependable source of revenue through the middle of 2023 and keep about 60 people employed.

"I don't think I have to explain to anybody how important this is to our community," Jones said.

The city generates revenue through a service fee and cost savings rom the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation funding to operate the facility.

Joining Jones and Colston at the speakers podium were Mayor Dave Noerr, who gave a brief pep talk, West Side Health Care District Executive Director Jerry Starr, who provided an update on the planned clinic construction , and West Kern County College District Supt. Dr. Deb Daniels, who spoke on Taft College's need for funding from a bond measure on the June ballot.

Colston spoke last and at length about his current project, Sandy Creek Estates, and his career in development in Taft, which spans more than 50 years.

He's seen new home prices rise from $25,000 to $250,000 in his career.

Colston got his start in business operating Bob and Vic's Shoe Store with Vic Borrecco in the 400 block of Center Street, in 1954.

Thirteen years later, real estate developer Don Rook approached with an offer him to get involved in a residential development in the area of Fourth and Calvin Street.

It was completely new to him.

"I knew how to sell shoes but I didn't know how to sell homes," he said.

It was a 41-lot tract with 1400 to 1800 square foot homes selling for as little as $25,000 each.

"How does a shoe salesman build 41 homes? It didn't bother me to say 'I don't know. I'll have to find out,' " he said.

It marked the start of a career that he wants to cap with his best development yet on the west side of Hillard Street north of A Street Park and Parkview Estates.
"I'm proud of all my subdivisions but I want this to be an outstanding development," he said.

It hasn't been easy.

It took more than a decade of dealing with red tape and environmental issues - especially those involving endangered species - before construction started, and it took some prodding from then-Assemblymember Shannon Grove to get state officials to move the project forward.

"We would still be waiting for it, I'm almost sure, if we didn't get help from Shannon," Colston said.

Once construction got started, it became a success.

The first phase is nearly built out, and a second phase, with larger homes is starting, Colston said.

Noerr opened the program, attended by more than 90 people in the OT Cookhouse banquet room.

He gave a brief, upbeat opening to set the stage for Jones announcement.

He talked about the Black Gold Industrial Park off Gas Company Road, where he partnered with the late Charlie Beard. Fifty of the 55 space are now being used.

The city manager followed with discussion of the history of the recently-completed transit facility/banquet room and a new petroleum processing facility at the industrial park that created as up to 25 full time jobs.

He also promised more construction coming soon to Rails to Trails.

Starr followed up with an update on the new $9 million health care clinic coming to the old West Side District Hospital site.

Bids should be awarded in May, Starr said, with the clinic completion about a year after that.

Construction is also the big topic for Taft College.

The last major project in Measure A, the 2004 Taft College Bond, is a new cafeteria-student center going up on Wildcat Way next to the Kern County Library.

It should be largely completed by the end of October and ready for use for the 2019 spring semester, Daniels said.
She outlined the needs the college still has after Measure A and why the college is seeking a $50 million bond in June.

The dental hygiene facility is still in the original modular buildings it opened in in the 1990s and needs a modern building to hold modern instruments.
Other TC classes are still in modular buildings, Daniels said, and the college needs parking space as well.