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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The $2.5 million estimated cost of renovating a Fruitvale Avenue industrial property into a new Kern County animal shelter has ballooned to nearly $4.5 million.
The most recent increase -- a $1.3 million step -- is set for routine approval at Tuesday's Kern County Board of Supervisors' meeting.
Supervisors will review a report on a makeshift compost dump in Lebec that has drawn attention from county regulators in recent weeks.
For months, the city of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation has been dumping material described as mulch or green waste on property on Frazier Mountain Park Road just west of Highway 99.
A private trucking company has then taken the material to the Synagro composting facility near Taft where it is mixed with other products and turned into fertilizer.
In a report to supervisors, Kern County Public Health officials said testing is still under way to determine exactly what the material is and what other products, if any, might be in it.
The city of Los Angeles, the report states, has stopped dumping the material in Lebec as it promised to do after area residents raised concerns.
A disputed Islamic center and school also comes before supervisors.
The Kern County Planning Commission approved the proposed center at Stockdale Highway and Driver Road. But neighbors and opponents filed an appeal with the Board of Supervisors citing safety concerns.
They are also concerned about traffic patterns in the area even though the project will include road improvements.
County planners maintain the project deserves approval and that a tower and dome that exceed building code restrictions are religious architectural features protected by federal law and have been allowed on other religious buildings in town.
HOW TO GO
The Kern County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers on the first floor of the Kern County Administrative Center, 1115 Truxtun Ave.
The animal control and Lebec issues are to be heard during the 9 a.m. session. The Islamic Center item comes up in the 2 p.m. session.
More discussion is expected on a different but related topic: how supervisors will spend $250,000 set aside in August to fund low-cost spay-neuter programs.
Supervisor Leticia Perez said she expects the full board to support a plan she and Supervisor David Couch crafted during a community meeting earlier this month.
The largest share of the money -- $100,000 -- would fund vouchers to help low-income people in Oildale and east Bakersfield get their pets altered.
Those are the areas from which the largest percentage of shelter animals have come over the past three years, Kern County Animal Services officials say,
Mobile spay-neuter clinics in rural communities would get $50,000 while the five supervisors would split another $50,000 to use in their districts as they see fit.
Programs to alter feral or community cats and return them to the streets -- called trap-neuter-release programs -- would get $30,000.
The remaining $20,000 would go to print and distribute educational materials and back up other programs as needed.
When the city of Bakersfield and county of Kern failed to reach a deal last summer to build side-by-side shelters on South Mount Vernon Avenue, the city ordered the county to leave the shelter it operated there or keep sheltering unwanted animals from the city's jurisdiction without compensation.
The county -- "under a painful time constraint," Perez said -- quickly found and leased the Fruitvale property for $120,000 a year.
It was the cheapest option at the time, she said. The cost to convert the land and three existing buildings into a functioning shelter was estimated at $2.5 million.
To give some perspective, Kern County General Services Director Jeff Frapwell said the city estimated the cost of constructing a full, standalone county shelter would be about $10.4 million.
He said the cost of the work on the Fruitvale property -- the most expensive of which was tied to animal waste removal and air filtration systems -- has gone up significantly to $4.2 or $4.3 million.
But what people don't understand, he said, is that the new facility is better for the animals than the old shelter on South Mount Vernon. It's cleaner, with separate areas for sick animals and an air filtration system that lessens the chance of diseases being passed between animals through the air.
Work on the facility is wrapping up, Frapwell said.
"We're essentially done. There's some nit-picky things we have to do," he said.