Time to play column catch-up.
This is where I catch you up on a number of issues I’ve touched on in past columns.
My column asking whether we should close the very high and very dangerous Kern River to recreational use generated a lot of response.
Even from Kern County Supervisor David Couch, who asked county staff at Tuesday’s board meeting whether Kern could charge people for rescuing them from the river.
The county counsel is still researching the issue, but in perusing (another word for Googling) the issue, I came across Government Code 26614.5-26614.7.
It gives a somewhat definitive answer of “yes” and “no” to the question of charging individuals who have to be rescued.
This is why there are lawyers, in case you ever wondered.
If a county passes an ordinance allowing it to charge individuals, then yes it can.
It appears Kern has never passed such an ordinance.
So, for now, no we can’t.
But should we?
“If there’s a mechanism for charging someone who’s been irresponsible, I wouldn’t be opposed to that,” said Sheriff Donny Youngblood. “But how do you tell a family who’s just lost a child, ‘Hey your kid’s dead and here’s a bill for $7,000?’ I’m not in favor of doing that.”
“I understand what the sheriff is saying and I agree, it’s an open question,” Couch said.
Also up for question is how much to charge.
Unlike other counties, Kern’s Search and Rescue is all-volunteer.
And how would you get deadbeats to pay up?
It might be more trouble than it’s worth to chase those dollars.
Or maybe adopting the ordinance and posting signs warning people they could be billed would be enough to deter at least some people from getting in the river, Couch said.
Kudos to the Bakersfield City Council and staff members for being proactive in making sure the wonderful fireworks show at The Park at River Walk will go on this year.
On Wednesday, the council agreed to use $32,000 in illegal fireworks fine money to help pay for the show.
Free professional shows are a nice amenity for citizens and, anecdotally, they help reduce the amount of illegal fireworks going off throughout the city.
So I’m very pro on professional shows.
But they are pricey.
The city typically seeks sponsors to foot the $50,000 to $60,000 annual cost of the River Walk show and festivities.
It’s my understanding the fireworks portion costs at least $20,000.
My hope is the council will dedicate a portion of the fireworks fine money to the show every year.
Perhaps my new BFF, Councilman Willie Rivera, will look into that.
Yes, the same Rivera who said last year that the only reason fireworks are an issue is because of “one very loud reporter in town.” (He meant me.)
He’s apparently had a change of heart, if not on my position to ban all personal fireworks, at least on my insistence that officials must work to minimize fireworks’ damage.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Rivera publicly thanked me from the dais, saying, “She’s really bird-dogged this issue for quite some time. I appreciate her keeping us informed and on the right track.”
Awww. That was really nice.
Now back to my bird-dogging.
The County of Kern also collects fines through administrative citations.
Some of that goes to pay for the extra enforcement on July Fourth, but some is rolled over every year as well. (The city pays for enforcement through permit fees paid by legal fireworks booths, BTW.)
At the county this year, the illegal fireworks fine fund is sitting at $83,000.
The county typically uses about $50,000 to pay for enforcement, leaving a $30,000 cushion, which I would like to see used for a free professional show in the metro Bakersfield area.
How ’bout it?
“I’m not opposed to it,” was Supervisor Couch’s response.
I’m taking that as a yes.
I haven’t done a column on this recently, but an item on next week’s Board of Supervisors agenda caught my eye.
Kern County Animal Services notes it has $152,000 in unanticipated revenue.
That’s a lotta scratch.
Director Nick Cullen said a large chunk came from charging Arvin more for services provided by the county. And increases in adoptions brought more fees.
I was especially glad to see that a substantial portion came from refocusing the efforts of the Public Education and Enforcement Teams, or PEET.
The PEET program is not easy.
Team members go door to door and talk to residents about the need to license and spay/neuter pets. They issue warning citations and provide information about how residents can get animals licensed and/or fixed at low cost.
And, most importantly, they follow up.
It’s hard work.
But it pays off, as evidenced by a 14 percent increase in licensing revenue.
Now where to spend that money?
Well, part of it, $5,800, is slated for the initial lease payment on a new X-ray machine for the shelter.
That’s something I advocated for last September.
Without its own X-ray machine, the shelter had to ferry animals to private vet hospitals, which increased costs and trauma to the animals.
I’m super excited the shelter can knock that off its wish list.
On a down note, shelter veterinarian Rebecca Arnold has left and moved back to Sacramento.
She did a great job while she was here and will be missed.
Cullen said the county has already posted for a new vet, so spread the word.
There, all caught up.