County supervisors threw their support behind the Frazier Park library project Tuesday morning, approving work by a new architect and calling on patience from the state of California, which provided $3.4 million in grant money to power the project.

Initial plans for the library called for work to be completed in March.

But delays in moving the project through county bureaucracy, and a year of minimal action from an architect the county fired last month, have kept the library from becoming even a reality on paper, county officials said.

That put the state grant money at risk. Now the state will have to decide if Kern County is moving forward quickly enough.

"Some of it has to do with getting things through our own bureaucracy at the county," Supervisor Ray Watson said.

So the worst-case scenario puts opening day in September 2009.

"We're going to make every effort to greatly exceed that (deadline)," said Jeff Frapwell of the county General Services Division.

Gang prevention

Supervisor Michael Rubio called on fellow supervisors to pour $3.8 million into specific groups and agencies to prevent gang activity and help members leave gangs.

"We can't arrest our way out of this problem," he said.

But county attorney Bernie Barmann told Rubio he couldn't ask the four other supervisors to vote with him to make gang prevention and intervention their top unmet county need.

At least not Tuesday.

Rubio presented the proposal during a general comments portion of the meeting, which means supervisors couldn't vote on the proposal's substance.

"The only thing the board can vote on today is referral," Barmann said.

Rubio tried to wiggle in an "implied" vote of support from other supervisors. But Barmann stopped him and Rubio eventually settled for scheduling the issue on the board's first meeting in May.

"I would hope and strongly urge, with every atom in my body, to have you set it aside as a high priority," he told his fellow supervisors.

Supervisor Mike Maggard backed Rubio without hesitation.

"We are disserving ourselves and our community if we do not approve all of this plan," he said. "This issue is of tantamount need."

Supervisor Jon McQuiston said he wouldn't back Rubio's plan without looking at other priorities.

"I have great difficulty saying that we're going to pre-determine that this is going to trump all of those," McQuiston said.

Kern Medical Center

County-owned Kern Medical Center still faces financial challenges, said interim Chief Executive Officer David Culberson.

Supply costs are up. Drug costs are up. Payments for services are down. Culberson will leave his fill-in position after next week, when new full-time CEO Paul Hensler joins the hospital.

Supervisors approved Hensler's $325,000-a year-contract on Tuesday and will spend the next 90 days developing performance standards the new hospital boss will have to meet to receive a $81,000 salary bonus.

Culberson told supervisors the hospital must decide if it wants to be big, busy and expensive or lean and affordable.

That thought was called immediately into question Tuesday when Terry Hilliard, who runs a medical contracting business, challenged a $1.2 million contract supervisors were about to sign for 40 days of anesthesia services.

Hilliard said the cost is dramatically high.

"The county is getting raped here, raped financially," Hilliard said.

The contract is a part-time deal with Dr. Robert Goldstein that will phase into a full-time contract with Goldstein's business in June.

Hilliard complained that his company was not notified of the bidding process for that full-time contract and missed out on a chance to bid for the work. "How can a company in New York, 3,000 miles away, get a notice of a (request for proposals) when our company, which is three miles away, did not?" Hilliard asked.

KMC officials said they followed the rules for announcing requests for proposals by posting the contract on the county's Web site.

Supervisors voted to approve the short-term contract with Goldstein Tuesday afternoon after being told there was no time to give consideration to any other vendors.

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