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Tuesday, May 06 2014 05:40 PM

Council to consider its goals, new city budget

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield City Hall.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

The Bakersfield City Council will discuss its 2014 goals Wednesday -- including hiring more police officers and improving southeast development -- before hosting a workshop on the proposed 2014-2015 city budget, which could support some of those ideas.

The workshop, which is part of the council's 5:15 p.m. meeting, is the first of four devoted to the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-2015, which begins July 1.

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HOW TO ATTEND

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.

The council is expected to recommend changes and approve a revised budget at its June 25 meeting.

Assistant to the City Manager Chris Huot declined to reveal specifics before the workshop, but described it as a review of the city's operating budget, and proposed staffing changes and capital improvement projects.

"We've seen recent positive sales tax trending, we've seen some incremental improvement in the housing and construction activities," Huot said when asked whether staffing changes meant cutting or adding employees. "We've seen some positive economic indicators, so I think that's probably a good sign of where we're at right now."

Following its 3:30 p.m. closed session meeting, the council will consider approving its revised goals, including planning for and developing "funding mechanisms for additional (police) staffing when possible."

Ward 7 Councilman Russell Johnson, who pushed last year for adding 10 Bakersfield Police Department officers beyond the 10 eventually approved, said the larger issue is filling police training academy positions -- because without qualified candidates, BPD has struggled to reach its full complement of 389 sworn officers.

Johnson and Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera -- whose areas include much of south Bakersfield -- were excited about developing their parts of town.

As part of enhancing the city's transportation network, Johnson added "complete environmental, land acquisition and final design of the Hosking Avenue-Highway 99 interchange" as a goal.

The councilman said the intersection construction -- due to begin this fall -- will be crucial to developing south Bakersfield.

"That is going to provide greater activity and mobility. But more importantly, the Union Avenue corridor near the municipal airpark -- industrial space is at a premium now," said Johnson, who represents the city's central southern area. "Bakersfield cannot grow on the northern boundary so the southern part of Bakersfield, especially on the Union corridor where you've traditionally got industrial uses, could have the most promise."

Rivera agreed. His goals included developing and implementing an economic development program for "industrial areas near the Bakersfield Municipal Airpark and the Highway 58 corridor ... ."

"If that airport had more business, it'd be a win-win for the community around it," said Rivera, whose ward also includes the vacant, partially-built V Heritage Plaza at 2303 S. Union Ave. "I think, really, I'd like us to be in the position to lend a hand."

In other business, the council will consider amending its agreement with Parsons Transportation Group for program management services, to spend an additional $2.8 million.

Parsons, which helps manage Thomas Roads Improvement Program major highway projects for the city, has done additional services since the agreement was last amended in November.

The new amendment, which revises the total amount spent "not to exceed" about $43.5 million, will cover work including property acquisitions, legislative support and lobbying, noise studies and helping defend the city from a lawsuit against the 24th Street widening.

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