Q: Are there any plans to widen Allen Road to two lanes traveling north between Palm Avenue and Meacham Road?

The rest of Allen Road (in this area in both directions) is two lanes except for this section. Because of the high volume of traffic on both Allen Road and Rosedale Highway, the northbound lane of Allen can be backed up all the way to the Palm Avenue intersection, and I cannot imagine how bad it will get when the new freeway is finished and Allen Road is not widened to two lanes.

-- Matt Williams

A: Kern County Roads Director Craig Pope filled us in:

The short answer is yes, we are. Hopefully in not too long of time we will make northbound Allen at Rosedale two through lanes rather than the one it is now.

Allen is going to be a challenge because of decisions made in the past, but we are focused on it and see the need for it. The power towers to the north are expensive and can take years to get moved and the right-of-way on the south will also be a challenge.

Q: Editor's note: This question came in after Californian columnist Lois Henry reported Feb. 3 that the county of Kern had paid $1.4 million to a mother who claimed her children were wrongfully removed from her custody by Child Protective Services):

It would appear from the cited paragraph and from earlier Lois Henry reportage that Kern County is "self-insured" for damage claims in which Kern is judged at fault or admits liability prior to a court process.

Is Kern County self-insured or does it purchase liability insurance or does it have a combination of both? To say that Child Protective Services "has cost county taxpayers $1.4 million" is inaccurate if part or all of the claim is covered under provisions of the public liability policy.

I do understand that an excessive claims history can lead to increases in policy premiums, thus costing taxpayers directly. So what is the skinny on this topic?

-- Dennis Karnowski

A: Henry posed the question to Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations, who said for that policy year, the county was self-insured up to $2.5 million. So, he said, "The money will ultimately come from the general fund."

Self-insured means an "excess carrier" insurer doesn't have to cover a claim during a certain policy period until the county pays out a certain amount in claims or attorney's fees and costs, Nations explained. When the county's payouts combined with fees and costs reach the pre-determined amount, the insurer's obligation kicks in.

Q: I read about a year ago that a new theatre and shopping center was approved to be built off Seventh Standard Road between Coffee Road and Calloway Drive.

When is this construction supposed to start?

-- Trevor Weeks

A: The contact person for this project listed in city documents did not return calls seeking an update on what's been called Saco Ranch.

But Bakersfield Planning Director Jim Eggert said commercial entitlements were granted on both sides of Coffee Road along the south side of Seventh Standard Road. The city had no plans or information as to when development is anticipated, he said.

City Principal Planner Martin Ortiz said the last action on the project was completion of the annexation to the city in June 2011.

Old Californian stories say Saco Ranch was/is slated to be a 323-acre commercial and retail project.

Ask The Californian appears on Mondays. Submit questions to asktbc@bakersfield.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.