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Monday, Jun 02 2014 05:42 PM

Red-light cameras, playing fields go to council

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    A red light camera at the intersection of Bernard and Oswell street in a January 2014 photo.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Adding playing fields at city parks and new convention center theater lights, and saving up for a new arena ice chiller will all be weighed by the Bakersfield City Council at its meeting Wednesday.

The council will also consider a two-year extension of the city's contract with Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems, which operates red-light cameras at 12 intersections in Bakersfield.

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The Bakersfield City Council meets at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to take public statements on items on the closed-session agenda before going into closed session. Its regular meeting resumes at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall, 1501 Truxtun Ave. Meetings also may be viewed live on cable channel KGOV. Past meetings can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/qfatap5.

As of April 30, the city earned an average of $78,684 net revenue per year from the red-light program but spent $55,211 of that to have a sworn Bakersfield Police Department officer review each incident.

However, a so-called "cost neutrality" clause specifies the city will never have to pay Redflex more than it takes in in payment for tickets.

"And also, just looking at the number of accidents and how they've decreased over the past 10 years prior to the program, what they're really about is decreasing the major injury accidents," said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson.

Accident statistics compiled in December by the Traffic Engineering division of the Public Works Department and based on Bakersfield Police Department collision reports through Sept. 30 show accidents declining in almost all cases. In 11 of 16 instances surveyed, accidents dropped from double to single digits.

The rate of more deadly primary accidents, defined as "right-of-way violations such as broadsides and head-ons, " declined on yearly averages ranging from 47 to 73 percent, depending on the intersection.

The council also will hear presentations on next year's budget from the Recreation and Parks and Community Development departments, and on Rabobank Arena and the Convention Center.

The Recreation and Parks' overall budget is almost $19.3 million, a nearly 7 percent increase over last year's $18.1 million budget.

Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover said the department is adding one recreation staffer in the proposed 2014-2015 fiscal year budget -- but $500,000 of the $1.2 million increase is due to water costs.

"We have been underfunded in the water count for many years. We're hoping that the city council sees that and gives us the half a million," Hoover said. She explained previously the department could pay for its water by going over budget -- which is frowned upon -- or taking "money from other parts of the budget."

The 2013-2014 budget the city council adopted earmarked just more than $2 million for water. As of March 31, the department had spent nearly $1.7 million of that.

In other budget news, one of two capital improvement projects in the new budget would bring two to four new softball fields to Mesa Marin Sports Complex, using $1.9 million in capital outlay funds.

Another nearly $2.3 million project would create a stadium field, a new parking area and entrance off Taft Highway, and restrooms at State Farm Sports Village.

In other budget news, the council is expected to hear about $880,500 in recommended improvements to Rabobank Arena and the Convention Center.

These include setting aside $250,000 during each of the next three years to replace the Rabobank ice chiller -- which was installed in 1998 and needed more than $375,000 in emergency repairs late last year -- and replacing the 1963 incandescent lighting at the Convention Center Theater with a more efficient system.

If this $170,000 project is approved, the city would finance it -- like several other similar items in the new budget with a zero interest on-bill financing loan from a Public Utility Commission program financed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

During the closed session portion of the meeting, the council will conduct City Manager Alan Tandy's annual performance review.

Ward 2 Councilman Terry Maxwell, a consistent critic of city policy, declined to discuss Tandy's review.

"I just wouldn't make any comments going into that," Maxwell said. "Things like personnel issues are best left face-to-face."

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