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Saturday, May 19 2012 06:00 PM

From scrubs to streetscapes, supervisors' pet projects vary

BY JAMES BURGER CALIFORNIAN STAFF WRITER jburger@bakersfield.com

Kern County supervisors have, for years, each maintained their own special fund that gives them the unique ability to choose and support pet projects.

Money has gone to buy headset radios for sheriff's deputies on bike patrol in Oildale, send the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra to the Wine in the Pines event in Pine Mountain Club, spay and neuter feral cats, buy scrubs for staff at Kern Medical Center and support faith-based nonprofit groups.

In recent years, the practice has come under fire from the Kern County Grand Jury, which criticized several expenditures and the de-facto secrecy of the so-called "supervisors discretionary funds."

County staff have countered that information about the funds is freely available to the public -- if it asks. And supervisors argue the county has followed spending policies in allocating the money.

So where has all the money gone?

BEFORE THE BOOM

This fiscal year, after two years with zero allocations, the supervisors' discretionary funds were each granted $50,000.

It's a far cry from the $200,000 each fund pulled in annually before the housing market crash sent Kern County's annual budget into a tailspin and spending on public services was deeply slashed.

And it's nothing compared to the $1 million annual allocations San Diego County supervisors receive or the $3 million under the control of Los Angeles County supervisors -- two places where community outcry has created political and legal challenges to the practice.

But through the economic downturn, Kern County supervisors have maintained sizable balances in their funds, hoping to complete major capital improvements with the accumulated cash.

Currently, supervisors have pooled more than $1.3 million in the five accounts.

Most of that money is under the control of retiring 4th District Supervisor Ray Watson and 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard. Both say they have large visions for what the money will accomplish for their districts.

SEWER

Watson retires at the end of 2012. He does not plan to leave much of the $787,000 he had in his account at the beginning of the fiscal year unspent.

He has been working for years to pull together a major project to add a system of sewer mains to an area of south Taft that will, he hopes, pave the way for development of homes there.

"Nobody's going to develop there until there is sewer out there," Watson said.

He was able to bring in some additional Community Development Block Grant money, he said, and that should be enough to make the project happen. According to the County Administrative Office, $240,000 of his fund has been earmarked for the sewer project.

Watson said his philosophy in spending the discretionary money is focused totally on the idea that the cash can leverage economic growth if used well.

"I don't look at it as a political slush fund. I look at it as money that, when I see a chance for economic development, can be used to make a difference," he said. "I try to get the community involved in the project."

Already this year, Watson has pushed $50,000 into building a parking lot in the Lockwood Valley area near Frazier Park -- in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service -- to ease the conflict between area residents and "snow bunnies" from Los Angeles who drive up to the community and park illegally along the roadways to play in the snow.

NEW CHESTER

Since joining the Kern County Board of Supervisors in 2007, Supervisor Mike Maggard has gathered more than $500,000 in his discretionary fund.

He has focused all but a few thousand of those dollars on remaking the public face of Oildale: North Chester Avenue.

In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, he spent $61,029 to host a charette, a collaborative planning meeting, in Oildale to gather residents' ideas for how best to improve their community.

Since then he's squirreled away his cash while plans were finalized for landscaping North Chester, adding decorative streetlamps, wheelchair ramps and sidewalks, and re-routing the frontage road that flanks it.

Maggard was also able to pull in community development block grant funds to supplement his money.

Construction on the project's first phase finished in June 2011 and a second phase is still under construction.

Then Maggard hopes to move on to east Bakersfield, where he plans to repeat the charette process, which, he said, allows the public to guide his use of discretionary funds.

The discretionary fund process, he said, "works splendidly. It enables me to do something for my district that I otherwise wouldn't be able to do."

CONCERNS

For John Mainland, past foreman of the Kern County Grand Jury, the primary concern is not so much how supervisors use the money -- though he has concerns about some of the funding -- but rather how much, or little, access the public has to information about that spending.

"My biggest concern would be it's not open for discussion. It's not submitted to the public on an open basis," he said.

According to a response to a report by this year's Grand Jury, which Mainland does not sit on, county officials say that "many of the expenditures from the discretionary funds are presented to the board for approval," and that "the remaining expenditures are accomplished through established and audited interdepartmental charging procedures."

The response indicated that the county would consider an annual recap of expenditures.

Mainland struggles to understand how that encourages public oversight of supervisors' most personal and flexible use of taxpayer money.

"Why would the taxpayer have to ask?" he said. "By the time you ask about it, the deed is done. That's what I'm most offended by. Especially in this time where there's a whole lot of people who are hurting."

Supervisor Jon McQuiston, who has used the funds to buy electric stun-guns for rural Kern County Animal Control officers, support the Southwest Defense Alliance's mission to protect military bases from closure and buy new computers for the Kern County Veterans' Services Department, said he supports more transparency.

"I'm completely open to look at different ways if it makes it more transparent," he said. "It wouldn't bother me if it was posted on our website for everyone to see whenever they wanted to see it."

But he disagrees that the process is closed off and secret.

"Everything that we've done is a matter of public record," he said, and those records are available to the public "simply upon request."

NEW VISION

Supervisor Karen Goh, on the board for a little more than one year, has neither accumulated nor spent much of the 5th District's discretionary funds.

But she sees a great deal of opportunity to make a difference in her district.

She is looking for ways, she said, that her limited funds can strengthen community efforts that are already under way.

If, she said, "somebody has already gone out and leveraged funds, what can we do to help supplement to make sure the project gets done?"

Her predecessor, now-state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, had the same philosophy. He pushed funds into faith-based nonprofits, the Boys and Girls Club and community benefit organizations like Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance and the Alliance Against Family Violence.

Goh said the supervisors don't treat their own spending with any less care or concern than what they would aim at other county expenditures.

"We put it through the same level of scrutiny we would with any other project," she said. "All of our spending is done with accountability and transparency."

 

SUPERVISORS' ACCOUNTS

 

DISTRICT 1 (JON MCQUISTON )

2011-2012 as of this past week

 

Beginning balance: $145,808.08

New allocation: $50,000

Spending:

Parks -- Tasers: $6,000

Ridgecrest Teen Court: $5,000

Friends of Jawbone Canyon: $1,500

Kern County Engineering, Surveying and Permit Services leachfield: $20,000

Lake Isabella legal review -- Counsel retain outside counsel: $6,953.98

Reimburse Planning for Dave Freeland Forest Service issue: $557.75

TOTAL: $40,011.73

Ending balance: $155,796.35

 

2010-2011

Beginning balance: $229,408.08

New allocation: $0

Spending:

Southwest Defense Alliance: $27,600

Sheriff, Van for Sheriff's Activity League: $15,000

Replacement vehicle: $21,000

Ridgecrest Boys and Girls Club: $15,000

Ridgecrest Teen Court: $5,000

TOTAL: $83,600

Ending balance: $145,808.08

 

2009-2010

Beginning balance: $342,182.07

New allocation: $0

Spending:

Veteran Services computer upgrades: $20,000

4-H program -- Farm & Home: $27,500

City of Ridgecrest -- Teen Court: $5,000

Kern River Valley Senior/Veterans Hall generator project (General Services): $20,276.53

Delano kitchen equipment replacement: $9,997.46

Lakeshore Pines -- Engineering and Survey Services: $25,000

South Fork Summer Program: $5,000

TOTAL: $112,773.99

Ending balance: $229,408.08

 

2008-2009

Beginning balance: $281,315.86

New allocation: $180,000

Spending:

Engineering and Survey Services, Leach field Lakeshore Pines CSA: $37,517

Desert Willows furnishings, Community Action Partnership: $40,000

Roads (bike path repair): $1,000

Ridgecrest Public Health Facility repairs, General Services: $21,895

Sheriff -- 10 motion sensors farm equipment: $3,224.79

Rand Mountain Management Area map: $3,497

Consultant fee demonstration program -- Forest Service (Planning): $12,000

TOTAL: $119,133.79

Ending balance: $342,182.07

 

2007-2008

Beginning balance: $308,616.66

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

Edwards/China Lake encroachment study (Planning): $60,000

Indian Wells Valley 2000: $10,000

Sheriff off-highway vehicles: $31,700

Two hybrid vehicles, Board of Trade East Kern/Replace District 1: $50,378.80

Extended warranty for Board of Trade vehicle: $1,200

East Kern Mental Health housing: $20,000

Ridgecrest women's shelter playground equipment: $15,000

Kitchen equipment, Kern River Valley: $12,297

Indian Wells Valley Homemakers computers: $10,000

Sheriff's trailer (Share cost with District 2 ($11,150 full cost)): $5,575

Two sheriff's trailers (Share cost with District 2 ($22,300 full cost)): $11,150

TOTAL: $227,300.80

Ending balance: $281,315.86

 

Note: Carryover overstated by $15,000 due to Board of Trade kiosk being picked up as not paid but was paid in FY 2006-07.

2006-2007

Beginning balance: $216,218

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

Board of Trade (kiosks): $45,000

Board of Trade (kiosks) additional costs: $15,000

Parks -- Lake Isabella Senior Center ceiling tiles: 6,685.34

Parks -- Kitchen equipment upgrades, tables and chairs, Lake Isabella Senior Center: 23,934

Public Defender (Ridgecrest office) -- Electronic file storage: $8,232

Lake Isabella Senior Center additional kitchen equipment replacements: $23,750

TOTAL: $122,601.34

Ending balance: $293,616.66

 

 

DISTRICT 2 (ZACK SCRIVNER, DON MABEN)

2011-2012 as of this past week

Beginning balance: $13,099.36

New allocation: $50,000

Spending:

Rosamond Town Council: Estimated $9,100, $900 actual ($10,000 allocated)

Tehachapi Humane Society: $5,000

TOTAL: $15,000

Ending balance: $48,099.36

 

2010-2011

Beginning balance: $151,858.56

New allocation: $0

Spending (by Maben):

Rosamond Town Council: $160.49

Tehachapi Humane: $5,000

Rosamond Library/Hummel Hall landscaping (Parks): $33,027.81

Trail Signs Tehachapi Mountain Park: $670

Roads: $13,426.90

Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District: $90,000

TOTAL: $142,285.20

Ending balance: $9,573.36

 

Notes: Scrivner took office in January 2011. Small discrepancy between 2010-11 ending balance and 2011-12 beginning balance in this past week's spending update could not immediately be reconciled.

 

2009-2010

Beginning balance: $212,394.47

New allocation: $0

Spending:

Tehachapi Humane Society feral cat spay/neuter program: $5,000

Animal Control spay/neuter voucher program: $50,000

Aging -- Hummel Hall oven, Rosamond: $5,535.91

TOTAL: $60,535.91

Ending balance: $151,858.56

 

2008-2009

Beginning balance: $199,411.68

New allocation: $180,000

Spending:

Rosamond Town Council: $520

Rosamond Community Services District picnic tables: $3,526

Tehachapi Bike Trail: $50,000

Boron Library HVAC: $25,200

Tehachapi Humane Society: $5,000

Rand Mountain Management Area map: $3,497

General Services -- 14 Waste bins, Meadowbrook Park: $8,070.88

Boron Library furnishings: $27,156.61

FOR-CERT: $10,017

East Kern Economic Development: $20,000

Vehicle: $14,029.72

TOTAL: $167,017.21

Ending balance: $212,394.47

 

2007-2008

Beginning balance: $246,196.68

New allocation to Maben: $200,000

Spending:

Sand Canyon Volunteer Fire Department equipment: $41,160

Rosamond Town Council: $10,000

Sheriff's off-highway vehicles: $16,400

Stallion Springs Community Services District, Kern County Fire dip site: $4,000

Sheriff's trailer (Share cost with District 1 ($11,150 full cost)): $5,575

Two sheriff's trailers (Share cost with District 1 ($22,300 full cost)): $11,150

Sheriff's equipment, Tehachapi substation: $31,500

George Wright Society (Climate Change Conference): $1,000

Parks (Tehachapi Mountain Park reroofs): $120,000

Board of Trade kiosks: $6,000

TOTAL: $246,785

Ending balance: $199,411.68

 

2006-2007

Beginning balance: $169,994

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

C&H Fence (old Rosamond fire station): $9,820.53

Board of Trade kiosks: $45,000

Board of Trade kiosks, additional costs: $15,000

Golden Hills Community Services District election costs: $15,000

Tehachapi Community Theater (seats): $5,600

FOR-CERT: $12,700

Friends of Jawbone: $6,575

First Transit reusable bags, senior citizens: $1,654.08

Sue Elliott (animal commissioner conference expense): $1,088.66

Tehachapi SPCA feral feline spay/neuter: $5,000

Rosamond Senior Citizens Inc. replace stolen: $633

Transfer to Budget Unit 1012 -- Second District: $5,426.05

TOTAL: $123,497.32

Ending balance: $246,496.68

 

DISTRICT 3 (MIKE MAGGARD)

2011-2012 as of this past week

Beginning balance: $409,117.44

New allocation: $50,000

Spending:

TOTAL: $0

Ending balance: $459,117.44

 

2010-2011

Beginning balance: $409,117.44

New allocation: $0

Spending:

TOTAL: $0

Ending balance: $409, 117.44

 

2009-2010

Beginning balance: $409,117.44

New allocation: $0

Spending:

TOTAL: $0

Ending balance: $409,117.44

 

2008-2009

Beginning balance: $292,610.50

New allocation: $180,000

Spending:

Oildale charette: $61,029.10

Aging Foundation event contribution: $1,000

Sheriff's bike patrols, wireless headsets: $1,463.96

TOTAL: $63,493.06

Ending balance: $409,117.44

 

2007-2008

Beginning balance: $100,000

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

Fairfax Jr. Baseball Club (water connection fee): $6,389.50

Aging Foundation event contribution: $1,000

TOTAL: $7,389.50

Ending balance: $292,610.50

 

2006-2007

Beginning balance: $0

New allocation: $100,000

Spending:

TOTAL: $0

Ending balance: $100,000

 

 

DISTRICT 4 (RAY WATSON)

2011-2012 as of this past week

Beginning balance: $737,220.65

New allocation: $50,000

Spending:

Snow park with Forest Service: $50,000

Mountain Communities Municipal Advisory Council: Estimated $9,925.07, actual $74.93 ($10,000 allocated)

Condor structure Frazier Park Visitors Center: $5,250.80

-- California Trail Users: $19,750

El Tejon School District: $9,600

Lost Hills bus shelter: 8,105.42

Replacement Plaque AW Noon Park: 2,564.84

Mettler Well: 75,000

TOTAL: $180,271.06

Ending balance: $606,949.59

 

2010-2011

Beginning balance: $757,122.08

New allocation: $0

Spending:

Mountain Communities Municipal Advisory Council (MMAC): $589.50

Frazier Park landscaping: $5,434.23

Oildorado Inc.: $2,000

KMC Auxiliary: $1,000

El Tejon School District: $9,600

TOTAL: $18,623.73

Ending balance: $738,498.35

 

Note: Small discrepancy between 2010-11 ending balance and beginning balance in 2011-12 update from this past week could not immediately be reconciled.

 

2009-2010

Beginning balance: $792,277.96

New allocation: $0

Spending:

California Trail Users, Frazier Park: $25,000

El Tejon School District: $9,600

Web services, Mountain Communities Municipal Advisory Council: $60

Susan Nichols (MAC): $495.88

TOTAL: $35,155.88

Ending balance: $757,122.08

 

2008-2009

Beginning balance: $660,200

New allocation: $180,000

Spending:

Frazier Park visitors center: $30,336

El Tejon School District: $9,600

Bikes--Taft: $3,100

Frazier Park Wine in the Pines tables/chairs: $2,708, Symphony additional costs: $2,000

Sheriff's neighborhood watch signs: $178.04

TOTAL: $47,922.04

Ending balance: $792,277.96

 

2007-2008

Beginning balance: $469,800

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

El Tejon School District: $9,600

TOTAL: $9,600

Ending balance: $660,200

 

2006-2007

Beginning balance: $297,800

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

El Tejon School District: $8,000

Board of Trade (kiosks): $15,000

Board of Trade (kiosks) additional costs: $5,000

TOTAL: $28,000

Ending balance: $469,800

 

 

DISTRICT 5 (KAREN GOH, MICHAEL RUBIO)

2011-2012 as of this past week

Beginning balance: $53,392.60

New allocation: $50,000

Ending balance: $103,392.60

 

 

2010-2011

Beginning balance: $241,374.60

New allocation: $0

Spending (by Rubio):

Summer Youth Program: $100,000

Corp. for Better Housing (Soccer goal posts): $1,982

Corp for Better Housing (staffing and afternoon sports and arts): $51,000

Bike Bakersfield (education program/materials): $20,000

Bakersfield AIDS Project (Ricky's Retreat): $10,000

Children Joining Children for Success event: $5,000

TOTAL: $187,982

Ending cash balance: $53,392.60

 

Note: Goh took office in December 2010

 

2009-2010

Beginning balance: $280,350.35

New allocation: $0

Spending:

KMC scrubs: $873.73

Rock Hill Farms (Sarah Perez Comm Center): $3,000

Public Health Staff Day reimbursement : $6,940.02

Transfer to Budget Unit 1015 -- 5th District: $27,162

KMC Auxiliary recognition luncheon: $1,000

TOTAL: $38,975.75

Ending balance: $241,374.60

 

2008-2009

Beginning balance: $244,214.68

New allocation: $180,000

Spending:

Stop the Violence, facilitator: $446.36

Lamont Chamber of Commerce, signs: $15,000

Clinica Sierra Vista (Southeast Neighborhood Partnership): $3,000

Catholic Charities (uniform drive): $9,000

Bakersfield Homeless Center: $50,000

Boys & Girls Clubs summer program: $5,000

Bakersfield Senior Center sidewalk reconstruction: $3,000

Shafter Healthy Start/Richland School District: $17,000

Stay Focused Ministries -- Skate rally: $3,000

Compacting Trash Systems -- Lamont: $8,893.55

Kern Medical Center pediatric playroom remodel: $8,766.45

Boys & Girls Clubs, Lamont facility: $1,227

Vehicle -- Aging -- Greenfield meal program: $19,530.97

TOTAL: $143,864.33

Ending balance: $280,350.35

 

2007-2008

Beginning balance: $147,688.41

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

Fairfax Jr. Baseball Club (water connection fee): $6,389.50

Greenfield School District -- Lights On: $4,000

Kern Medical Center emergency room scrubs: $3,984.92

Bakersfield Police Activity League: $7,990

Kitchen equipment, Prado Senior Center: $8,669.31

Alliance Against Family Violence (software/phones): $16,148

Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance phone system: $25,000

Fairfax/Brundage Neighborhood Partnership -- Edison Bus Stop: $11,172

Boys & Girls Clubs summer program: $5,000

Bakersfield Senior Center sidewalk reconstruction: $3,000

Boys & Girls Clubs Lamont summer program: $8,000

City of Bakersfield MLK Jr. Youth Community Garden Project: $3,000

Bakersfield Police Activities League summer day camp: $1,120

TOTAL: $103,473.73

Ending balance: $244,214.68

 

2006-2007

Beginning balance: $100,000

New allocation: $200,000

Spending:

Board of Trade (kiosks): $20,000

Boyle Engineering, Study regarding East Niles CSD: $12,000

Stay Focused: $20,000

Laptop computers for code compliance: $7,080.95

Arvin police bikes: $1,900

Community Action Partnership Kern (Friendship House) : $15,000

Bakersfield AIDS Project: $5,000

Fairfax-Brundage Neighbor Partnership: $4,740

Sheriff -- Varda alarm (graffiti): $5,630.64

Kern Family Living Center -- Seven Fold: $5,000

Garden Pathways: $5,960

Boys and Girls Club: $50,000

TOTAL: $152,311.59

Ending balance: $147,688.41

 

Source: Kern County Administrative Office

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