City government, which became slightly more youthful in 2013 with the election of Councilman Willie Rivera, now 25, grew younger still Wednesday night when the Bakersfield City Council appointed members to a new youth commission.

The seven members and seven alternates were chosen from 24 local high school students with grade point averages of at least at or near 3.0. They will be responsible for advising the City Council on the needs and concerns of young people. Their first meeting is tentatively set for Oct. 3.

“I impressed upon both of them that they were the founding members of this commission, which of course will go on for many years,” said Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan, referring to the member and alternate she appointed.

Alternate member Annika Celeste Paterno, an incoming sophomore at Stockdale High School who was bullied via text message during her freshman year, said she’s most excited about the commission’s potential to fight online and real-world bullying.

“It was definitely stressful,” Paterno said of her bullying experience, which she said she was able to resolve.

Her father, Jerome Paterno, said competition for school clubs can be intense in high school.

“It’s just that the best kids are kind of bullying each other to get ahead,” Jerome Paterno said. 

Commission members’ other duties include hosting an annual youth conference and assisting with Bakersfield’s Teen Government Day, which shows high school students how City Hall works.

Originally conceived by Rivera last September, the youth commission was finally approved in January but failed to attract applicants until later this spring.

Council members and Mayor Harvey L. Hall each picked one commission member and one alternate — with the exception of Rivera. Only one high school student from his ward applied to the commission, but Rivera said afterward he expects more applicants before the group’s first meeting.

“I sat through the meeting and looked through those applications and couldn’t help but smile at how impressive these students are and how they’ll do on this commission,” Rivera said. “I’m just excited to have them start sending us new ideas.”

Council members also voted 6-0 to update the Jan. 6 ordinance that created the youth commission, adjusting its required GPA to at least as close to 3.0 “as possible,” and relaxing the residency requirement to let members either live in the ward they represent or in the ward where they attend high school — an effort to level the playing field for wards with fewer high schools.

In other business, the council voted 6-0 to reject bids that came in high to rehabilitate a sewer lift station near 24th and Oak streets; and to add solar panels and expand the parking lot for Bakersfield’s Amtrak station.

The engineer’s estimate for the sewer lift station was $557,000 but the cheapest bid, from GSE Construction Company Inc. of Livermore, was nearly $725,000 — more than 30 percent too high.

The estimate for the Amtrak station work was nearly $1.6 million but the only bid received, from A-C Electric Co. of Bakersfield, came to nearly $2.5 million, more than 58 percent too high.

In an interview, Public Works Director Nick Fidler said recent regulations from the state Department of Industrial Relations have had a chilling effect on the number of contractors bidding jobs — and the construction sector of the local economy, which is relatively healthy, has provided them ample private sector work.

Downtown Councilman Terry Maxwell was concerned about rejecting bids for the sewer lift station if it was in imminent need of replacement.

“I just wanted the public to know that if the sewer lift station … fails that there’s no possibility that that sewage is going to be somehow coming out of that lift station and creating a hazardous materials situation in that area,” Maxwell said later of the station, which raises the level of sewer water so gravity will continue to pull it through the system.

Fidler explained the lift station doesn’t need an immediate overhaul, and has alarms to warn of a failure.

Both projects, he said, should go out to bid again in around six weeks.

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