Council rescinds Measure V funds for traffic engineering, OKs RPD fencing grant

The Ridgecrest City Council at its Dec. 19 meeting voted unanimously to rescind portions of two previous resolutions in which a total of $7,500 in Measure V funds was allocated as matching funds for traffic engineering services for the Systemic Safety Analysis Report Project (SSARP) and Highway Safety Improvement Project (HSIP). The $7,500 in required match money will be taken from unobligated general fund dollars for fiscal year 2018-2019.

The item was approved as part of the consent calendar. All five council members were present.

Grant funds toward RPD security fencing project

In another consent calendar item, council voted unanimously to authorize a grant application for a U.S. Edward Byne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to be used toward the Ridgecrest Police Department fencing project.

According to a staff report, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program has allocated one-time grant funding of $10,428.00 to the Ridgecrest Police Department to purchase police equipment products over a period of two years. The grant period begins October 2017 and ends in September 2019.

RPD plans to use these funds to upgrade the security features of the current fencing around RPD’s parking lot and prisoner holding facility.

The item was pulled for discussion by Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens. She appeared to be seeking clarification of what relation this item had to previous discussions of the RPD fencing project. She asked what, if any, upgrades are being made to the RPD fencing project as previously discussed.

“No upgrades,” said RPD Chief Jed McLaughlin. “We have to build it first.” He added that the agenda item is one of the grants to be used toward the fencing project previously discussed at council. He said DOJ just released this grant after holding it for over a year. McLaughlin said this grant was mentioned during the prior discussion of the project at a previous meeting.

The Ridgecrest City Council on Nov. 7 voted 4-1 to approve construction contracts for the fencing project, which includes security fencing, gate and electrical improvements at City Hall and the Ridgecrest Police Department. Stephens was the lone “no” vote.

The project will involve fencing the back/north side of the facility for security purposes, including fencing, camera systems and electrical for enclosing the north side of the parking lot. The project will also prevent access to the City Hall and RPD by way of the back road, which is not supposed to be used for through traffic.

According to McLaughlin in November, funding for the project will come from two Justice Assistance ($10,138 and $10,428) and two Cal Office of Emergency Services ($22,932 and $22,178) grants, as well as $172,154 in impact fees. Not all of these grants had been approved as of the Nov. 7 meeting.

At that meeting, Council approved $129,330 to All American Fence Erectors and $108,500 to Outback Industries/Gates Are Us for a total of $237,830 for the project.

McLaughlin made the case for the fencing project, noting that the security requirement is two-fold: protecting vehicles and personnel in the parking lot and preventing inmates held in RPD’s holding cell from escaping. He added that to his knowledge, no personnel have been attacked in the parking lot but that inmates have escaped from the jail facility in the last few years. Playing into this is the recent closure of the Kern County Sheriff’s Department jail in Ridgecrest, which has vastly increased the number of inmates held in RPD’s jail facility.