City Beat Blog

Friday, Mar 07 2014 09:05 AM

CITY BEAT: The latest scoop on municipal government, including a water confab

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Californian city government reporter Theo Douglas.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

WATER CONFAB: Is this historic statewide drought serious enough for local officials to consider the possibility of water rationing in Bakersfield? No. Bakersfield's extensive Kern River and Isabella Lake water rights are keeping such drastic measures at bay. But the situation is dire enough for the city Water Board to have planned a water conservation forum Thursday at City Hall.

City staffers will discuss what urban water districts are doing to save the wet stuff during Bakersfield's third straight dry year, Water Resources Board Director Art Chianello told the City Council on Wednesday.

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About your reporter

Theo Douglas covers municipal government for The Californian. He writes in this spot every Friday. Reach him at tdouglas@ bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com /TBCCityGov or on Twitter @TBCCityBeat.

"We'll all have a chance to talk about how we're dealing with our supplies and any ideas on how to conserve water to get us through this drought season," Chianello said. "In addition I believe the Water Association of Kern (County) will be talking about some of their outreach efforts within the city of Bakersfield also."

Water districts that have mailed in their engraved RSVP cards include the city of Bakersfield; California Water Service Co.; East Niles Community Services District; Oildale Mutual Water Co.; Greenfield Water District; Vaughn Water Co.; and the Kern County Water Agency.

The lineup impressed Ward 7 Councilman Russell Johnson, who is Water Board vice chairman.

"From what I'm being told, this is the first time we've had all the urban water purveyors get together and talk about what we can do as one entity to better serve Bakersfield residents and the greater metropolitan Bakersfield area," Johnson said, urging Chianello to include details about if and when water rationing could have to happen in next week's presentation.

"That's the No. 1 question I get, what are the steps, what are those triggers," Johnson said.

Chianello said the city is not facing a water emergency, but several city departments already have taken voluntary conservation measures.

The Recreation and Parks and Water Resources departments are dividing a $550,000 grant from the state Department of Water Resources. The parks department will use all but about $100,000 to put water-saving sprinklers in 18 city parks.

Parks officials have cut water to park trees and shrubs by 2 percent to 3 percent. Police and fire departments are saving water by washing cars and fire trucks less often and testing fire apparatus less frequently.

The Public Works Department has proposed closing the city car wash at the corporation yard on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, which could save up to 10,000 gallons per month.

The city has posted a link on its website to the Save Our Water website, which includes tips on water-wise gardens, and will be working with Cal Water to put an insert with conservation tips in water bills.

Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera, who requested the presentation, wondered about city water sales.

"How much water do we supply to folks who do rely on the State Water Project?" Rivera asked

City Manager Alan Tandy said the city has tried offering water districts chlorinated, disinfected water from Wastewater Treatment Plant 3 -- with little success -- and will be trying again.

"It's perfectly good water, perfectly usable for greenery, shrubs, in my opinion, crops and the like," Tandy said. "I've been encouraging Mr. Chianello, since these are no longer normal times, to start making the water community aware of this asset. They ought to be able to overcome a false image problem in order to utilize what is a rare asset in these times."

 

XERIOUS ABOUT XERISCAPE

Sacramento wants to pay you to rip out your front lawn -- or, at least, it might if you lived there.

As Ryan Lillis reported in The Sacramento Bee this week, the Sacramento City Council "voted unanimously Tuesday night to launch a 'cash for grass' program that will provide rebates to homeowners who replace their grass lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping."

Demand for the rebates should be high among xeriscapers, Lillis wrote: "city utilities officials said they already had a waiting list for the program before the spending plan was approved."

Bakersfield has a desert climate. And we're in our third dry year. And the state is in a drought. ...

 

ROAD PROJECTS MOTOR ON

Bakersfield's many Thomas Roads Improvement Program road improvements are, er, rocking down the highway.

In April, city officials expect the release of the draft Environmental Impact Report on Centennial Corridor, Public Works Director Raul Rojas told the Bakersfield City Council on Wednesday. Caltrans, which is releasing it, will do so with a workshop.

Also getting an upgrade:

* The Westside Parkway extension to Stockdale Highway and Heath Road should wrap in late 2014. Crews are currently working on the Renfro Road bridge -- and city staffers have met with Ward 4 Councilman Bob Smith and Kern County Supervisor David Couch to talk about getting residents southwest of the Parkway and Allen Road some sound walls. A solution could be four to six weeks away, Rojas said.

* Reconstruction of the Highway 178/Morning Drive interchange is about 15 percent to 20 percent complete, Rojas said.

* City officials hope to start construction on the 24th Street widening project next year. They're now figuring out which properties they need to buy and contacting owners.

* While not a TRIP project, the Hosking Road/Highway 99 interchange should go out to bid this summer, and start construction in the fall.

* Beltway improvements -- adding on- and offramps to Highway 58 and improving the Ming Avenue/Highway 99 interchange should go out to bid this summer and start construction later this year.

* Highway 58 gap closure, adding a third lane in either direction between Highway 99 and Cottonwood Road, should be finished this year.

 

DATELINE JOHANNESBURG

The high cost of vintage Levi's jeans means we could see raids on area cemeteries. That's the latest from Johannesburg resident Todd Sloan who called The Californian from eastern Kern County to tip us about this alarming potential trend.

Vintage Levi's have been commanding stratospheric prices for years -- with canny early shoppers carting away stacks of 'em at Southern California antique swap meets.

Sloan said he's concerned thieves who need money for drugs could target area cemeteries -- like mine shafts, a theoretical final resting place for vintage Levi's -- in hopes of unearthing sartorial buried treasure.

Sloan said he's already alerted authorities in Tucson, Ariz., and Tombstone, Ariz. -- home to the Boothill Graveyard, last resting place of several O.K. Corral casualties.

Billy Clanton, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

 

WHAT YOU'RE SAYING

Here's the latest buzz from The Californian's social media platforms:

Stephanie Tavares-Buhler, Facebook: "I think a mini (GET bus/Greyhound) hub at Amtrak is a great idea. However, isn't the current location closer to public services like the courthouse and city buildings?"

Kathy Adams, Facebook: A GET bus/Greyhound hub "is the best idea ever, so it probably won't be done in my lifetime."

Susie Lomas, Facebook: When he played Bakersfield in '68, Jimi Hendrix was wearing "a paisley scarf, not a tie!! It was said that Jimi went to Jumbo's, after the concert, and was driving a red Corvette, not true!! I know because I followed him down Truxtun down Beale n then down Niles. He drove a white Corvette n I rode along in an old Chevy."

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