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Shelby Mack / The Californian

The exterior of the new federal courthouse facing Mill Creek Park.

Q: In regard to Frank Samples' letter to the editor, I was wondering if our fancy new, multimillion dollar federal courthouse couldn't be used one day a month for bankruptcy hearings? Isn't our federal judge qualified to handle them? Didn't our local officials clamor long for this venue to cut down on the travel to Fresno?

-- Robert Smith

Smith is referring to a letter to the editor that bankruptcy attorney Samples recently wrote to The Californian complaining that he was forced to drive all the way to Fresno for a bankruptcy court matter instead of taking care of it in Bakersfield as he has long been able to do.

The simple answer to Smith's question is that bankruptcy hearings are being held at the new federal courthouse on 19th Street in Bakersfield, said Wayne Blackwelder, clerk of the bankruptcy court for the eastern district of California.

There are two judges from Fresno who come down to Bakersfield to hear cases, he said.

Blackwelder knew about Samples' letter and said his experience just happened to have happened during a week in which the U.S. Marshal's Service, which protects federal judges, didn't have the staffing to cover the Bakersfield courthouse and so hearings were moved to Fresno, Blackwelder said.

"We are in Bakersfield," he said. "We have every intention of staying in Bakersfield."

In fact, if you look on the bankruptcy court's website, you will see several hearings scheduled for Bakersfield.

Q: There is something being built at 5501 Buena Vista Road. I thought it was a Habitat for Humanity project but can't find any information on it.

-- Lori Hazelip

A: That is going to be a Jehovahs Witness church, according to Bakersfield planning officials.

The first phase of the project includes a 4,950-square-foot building and 1,396-square-foot patio, city documents say, while a second phase includes another building at the site totaling 8,740 square feet.

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