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Friday, Aug 08 2014 04:10 PM

BEYOND BAKERSFIELD: News from around Kern County

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Laura Liera is The Californian's digital news assistant. Reach her at lliera@bakersfield.com with news from beyond Bakersfield.

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    By Patty Cagle/ Special to The Californian

    This cat is a connoisseur of comfort, enjoying a nap.

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By LAURA LIERA, Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

LAKE ISABELLA: Business owners in Lake Isabella are uniting to put an end to burglaries.

The rear window of a vehicle was smashed during an Aug 1. burglary at Kern River Automotive, owned and operated by Frank Villafranca Jr.

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ABOUT YOUR REPORTER

Laura Liera is The Californian's digital news assistant. She compiles this report every Saturday. Reach her at lliera@bakersfield .com or on Twitter @Laura_Liera_2.

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After a photo of the suspect, later identified as 43-year-old Joseph Benny, was passed around the community, a business owner who recognized the suspect called Villafranca.

According to the Kern Valley Sun, Benny entered a Rite Aid and Villafranca followed him inside. Villafranca called police and texted several friends to ask for their help in detaining Benny inside the store until police arrived.

Villafranca told the newspaper the suspect tried to get away but when he realized he was surrounded, he seemed to accept the situation.

When Kern County Sheriff's deputies arrived, they arrested Benny on suspicion of second-degree burglary.

Business owners expressed their content with Villafranca's actions because of the recent rise in burglaries and vandalism in Lake Isabella.

Damage such as broken windows has caused local businesses to dig into their budgets and repair costly damage.

Brad Welsh, co-owner of Isabella Flooring Inc., said the money he has had to use for repairs impacts the donations he is able to make to local community clubs and groups.

TEHACHAPI: Golden Hills Community Services District users might see higher water bills.

Board members set Sept. 18 for a protest hearing on adjusting rates for commercial users.

The proposal is to change the monthly $50 flat fee for each water meter connection. The current flat connection fee is $21.26 for both residential and commercial accounts, the Tehachapi News reported.

The district's charge of $2.66 per 100 cubic feet of water used would remain the same.

The rate change proposal came after a discussion with a commercial property owner in Golden Hills, said Bill Fisher, general manager of Golden Hills CSD.

According to the newspaper, the rate change will pass unless a majority of the property owners who have commercial water meter hook-ups file a written protest before the hearing ends.

If passed, the increase would remain in effect until September 2019.

The new Tehachapi hospital being built on Capital Hills is back on track.

The hospital won't face any more delays than it already has, according to Stacey Pray, the project manager for the new hospital.

Pray said construction was delayed multiple times after the district terminated its agreement with concrete contractor LCN.

Their work did not meet specific code requirements, the Tehachapi News quoted Pray as saying.

The roadwork for the new hospital is moving along, with the Magellan Drive entrance complete and the Changer Dive entrance partially complete.

But now the project is showing financial problems. According to Pray's report, the concrete contractor extended the project by 66 days and set the hospital back $1.2 million.

The health district is looking at getting the money back from LCN, even if that includes legal action.

The Tehachapi Unified School District has a new superintendent.

Susan Andreas Bervel replaces former superintendent Lisa Gilbert.

The new superintendent has 28 years of experience as an educator and was assistant superintendent of the Wasco Elementary School District, the Tehachapi News reported.

One of her first goals as superintendent is to make sure the schools are safe, Bervel said. A safe school environment is essential for the students, staff and parents.

The new superintendent also plans to implement Common Core. The district purchased common core math textbooks to make sure the staff has the means for students to thrive in the classroom.

Another task Bervel plans to take on is the district's recent low enrollment numbers due to charter and private schools.

The district will work toward providing parents better education options so their kids will stay in the district, Bervel said.

Twenty pilots with shovels in hand worked together to save the New Cuyama airport runway.

Volunteers from Tehachapi, Bakersfield, Santa Maria and Shafter rolled up their sleeves to help save the airport, the Tehachapi News reported.

The New Cuyama airport runway was established in 1950 by the Atlantic Richfield Oil Company after oil was found in the Cuyama Valley. The airport created a way to quickly bring in materials and equipment to oil exploration personnel.

But over the years, the ownership has changed, taking a toll on the conditions of the airport.

The New Cuyama runway is important to any pilot who is flying from the Central Valley of California to the Coast, a volunteer said. It is the only option a pilot has after flying out of Bakersfield and it provides a safe area if any issues should arise mid-flight.

The current owner, Blue Sky Sustainable Living Center, said they plan to get the runway back and running soon, and volunteer work will speed up the time, plus save money.

Volunteers cleared tumbleweeds, patched runway holes and repainted the runway numbers.

The airport runway remains closed but volunteers have already planned future work days. For more information, call 822-2827.

MOJAVE DESERT: Southern Kern Unified School District may need more debt to qualify for a state grant.

The district is looking at applying for a $89 million construction grant but it doesn't qualify for that money under the hardship program.

The Mojave Desert News reported the district already received $8.6 million in a planning grant from the hardship program. That money is being used to develop site plans for improvements to several campuses.

When the district had previously applied for hardship program grants, it met the current criteria by being within 60 percent of its total bonded capacity. The rules, however, look like they might change.

The newspaper reported that state lawmakers are considering raising the threshold to 100 percent of total bonded capacity. For Southern Kern, that would mean an additional $14.1 million of debt to meet the bonded debt.

The Rosamond Community Services District has secured more water.

General Manager Steve Perez said the district purchased 1,500 acre feet of water to deposit in its Willow Springs Water Bank.

The Mojave Desert News reported the RCSD currently has 18 months of available water for its Rosamond clients should it get no water from Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency next year.

Perez said water is getting expensive. Some areas in the Central Valley are charging $3,000 per acre foot, he said.

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