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By Casey Christie/ The Californian
BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer email@example.com
The Bakersfield City Council approved a $3 million contract Wednesday extending Mohawk Street to Hageman Road, and a resolution letting the city quickly buy what it needs to take over an animal shelter from Kern County.
But before the council approved hiring Granite Construction to complete Mohawk Street, Ward 2 Councilman Terry Maxwell wondered why the city has budgeted $812,318 for items including "change orders," which are changes to expenses and costs during construction.
"If the project is $3 million and you want to have an $800,000 buffer, that's almost 30 percent" of the project cost, Maxwell said.
Public Works Director Raul Rojas responded that the project's developer is expected to pay the city an additional $400,000, and that when it arrives, this money will reduce the city's actual cost for change orders by almost half.
The council also approved, without discussion, authorizing the city to pay for computers, software, office space and repairs to the Mt. Vernon Avenue animal shelter, without calling for bids to get the lowest prices.
"We have to move forward on that," Maxwell said in an interview, meaning that the city must be prepared to begin running the shelter as soon as Sept. 30. "I understand the bidding process, but our back's against the wall."
In closed session, the council approved spending up to $75,000 to settle a 2011 lawsuit brought by Yetunda Wright against the city and Bakersfield police officers Timothy Berchtold and Noah Landers.
Wright's 15-year-old son Traveon John Avila was shot and killed by officers during the traffic stop of a stolen car July 9, 2010.
His mother alleged in district court that officers pulled over her son without cause, used excessive force and didn't summon immediate medical care, and that the city knew officers weren't adequately trained to make traffic stops.
City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said in an interview after emerging from closed session that the council's action is not an admission of guilt.
"Absolutely not. There will be no admission of wrongdoing," Gennaro said, calling the settlement "a reasonable amount for the city to pay."
"We were all very supportive of it," Maxwell said after the meeting. "There's no positive outcome for the city, there's no positive outcome for the person who lost their life that night."
In an interview Wednesday night, Wright's attorney Daniel Rodriguez said he thought a jury would have been sympathetic to his client, but that a trial would have been too taxing.
"It was too painful for her to go through a trial, and she just wanted to put it behind her and move on with her life," Rodriguez said.
Also during closed session, the council discussed, but took no action in a 2012 lawsuit filed against the city in Kern County Superior Court by Bakersfield resident Edward Colson, alleging that Bakersfield police stopped him without cause, and injured his right shoulder so badly that he needed surgery.
During its public meeting, the council also approved without discussion an ordinance that would rezone 77 acres of county land at the southeast corner of Calloway Drive and Seventh Standard Road from agricultural to residential, when the city eventually annexes it.
The property is owned by Kern Land Partners, LLC, which plans to build approximately 250 single-family houses there.
Neighbor Elaine Fleeman, who lives in the 8300 block of Borel Street, has said she's concerned that an oil well could be drilled on the property.
A spokesman for the state Department of Conservation has said no wells are proposed for the intersection. The Kern County assistant assessor told The Californian that the developer does not own the property's mineral rights.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a Bakersfield police officer escorted LifeSavers Ministries Administrator Tim Palmquist out of council chambers when Palmquist refused to end his remarks.
Palmquist was discussing the proposed Human Life Ordinance restricting abortion in Bakersfield, which a council committee tabled indefinitely this spring. Mayor Harvey Hall summoned a police officer when Palmquist's allotted three minutes ended and he did not wrap up his comments.
Palmquist said afterward that he had been about to leave on his own and didn't feel as if he had been escorted out -- and that he believes Hall displayed a bias against supporters of the ordinance.