State of the County Speech Focuses on Energy Jobs

In the State of the County Address January 19, Supervisor Mike Maggard, 2011 Chairman of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, told 400 people at a $45 a plate dinner of county belt-tightening in the “worst recession since the Great Depression.” He spoke of promoting business growth, building infrastructure and protecting public health despite lost jobs, closed businesses and residential foreclosures. Developing solar and wind energy generation facilities was a major focus.

Maggard said county department heads “spent $18 million less than we budgeted” last fiscal year. The board imposed mid-year restrictions on hiring and purchasing to hold down county costs to reduce use of budget reserves. He said Kern County banked $27 million when the state repaid 2009 tax money owed to the county. “We needed some of that money in 2010 and we may need to dip into reserves again to put together a budget this year.”

Law Enforcement: Maggard spoke of maintaining public safety through reducing gang violence with prevention and treatment programs, “tenacious investigation, prosecution, and jail terms for gang members….. Keeping illegal drugs out of neighborhoods is a big part of that battle, and…the sheriff continues to work closely with state and federal law enforcement to root out pot growing …here in Kern County.”

Fire Safety: “County fire crews fought four major wildfires in Kern last year that burned nearly 40,000 acres. Some structures were lost or damaged, but we managed to protect Frazier Park, Lebec, Kernville, and a large portion of Tehachapi that were directly threatened.” No lives were lost. Federal and state agencies helped “backfill our personnel and equipment costs for these emergencies, which were very expensive.”

Emergency responders and public works employees from the county and the City of Bakersfield also worked at our new Kern County Emergency Operations Center to provide an effective response to December’s floods. “It is a constant battle to hold fire safety services where they need to be. Incident response has quadrupled in the past 20 years. That is why the county has financed the construction of two new fire stations that will break ground this year in Pine Mountain Club and northwest Bakersfield.

“These projects will use environmentally sustainable green building methods and materials to build state-of-the-art fire protection facilities to serve our growing communities.

“…To have firefighters on call in those stations, a two-year $9 million dollar federal grant last year helped to fill critical staffing needs…. The federal grant saved four county fire stations in outlying areas from closure.”

Public Health: Kern County residents received 47,000 vaccines against H1N1 virus and over 6,500 doses of vaccine against whooping cough to the community. In 2010, Kern Medical Center took steps to reform doctors’ contracts and began converting to electronic medical records.

Transfer Sites: The Waste Management Department cut costs. “It avoided closing many outlying transfer stations. It also saved the hazardous waste drop-off, Metro Bakersfield recycling drop-off, and tire recycling programs.”

Jobs and Tourism: We’ve been building road projects all over Kern County using federal stimulus funds…Our roads aren’t just important arteries of commerce; they also bring tourism to Kern County to see what every corner of our county has to offer, from Red Rock Canyon to the Kern River to the wildflowers on the Grapevine…. Let’s not forget cycling. Over four million television viewers worldwide saw Kern County up close and personal when we hosted a stop on the Amgen Tour of California. An estimated twenty thousand spectators visited Kern that day.

InfoTech: An Informat ion Technology facility is being built next to the county’s emergency operations center up on Panorama Drive to give the department the space it needs to pursue its central support missions.

Federal Block Grants: The County used Community Development Block Grants to make street improvements and renovate community centers throughout Kern County.

Frazier Park Library: The new Frazier Park Library has finally taken shape and is scheduled to open in April, and no one on this board is happier than Supervisor Watson to see such a vital center of learning and culture finally become a reality for the Mountain Communities.

Energy: Nowhere are Kern County’s opportunities more promising than in energy production. Energy has been a keystone of our economic heritage, and in the future it will play a huge role in fueling our statewide economy and in meeting California’s clean air and greenhouse gas reduction goals. When you add up the barrels and kilowatts, Kern County out-produces every other place in California…. Our county planning team is committed to being a partner, and not an obstacle to industry, in meeting state environmental mandates.

New energy projects include:

  • An updated $280 million natural gas processing plant built by Occidental at Elk Hills.
  • Chevron’s Project Brightfield that is testing the latest solar energy concepts on the site of a former refinery.

“The county averted a major blow to our partners in the oil industry when we defeated the state’s attempt to pass a 10 percent oil severance tax. By defeating this punitive and misguided measure, we saved several thousand Kern County jobs and helped avert higher prices at the fuel pump everywhere in California.”

  • The commercial application of solar energy moved from concept to reality last year with 153 megawatts of project approvals in Kern County.
  • Agricultural processors added rooftop solar panels to their facilities, a 1 megawatt project now fuels the pumps for an oilfield in the Edison area, and the county is designing a project to install solar panels at Lerdo Jail and on the roof of the county administrative center garage.
  • In all, Kern County has 224 megawatts of renewable generation online with 2,800 megawatts soon to come online.
  • SoCal Edison’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project is nearing completion. With 4,500 megawatts of capacity, this line will be vital in bringing future Kern County wind and solar projects to the power grid.
  • ”Solidifying our reputation as the place to do green business, Terra-Gen Power has broken ground on the world’s largest wind project—Alta Wind Energy Center. When completed, the center will have the capacity to generate 1,500 megawatts of renewable energy. That’s enough electricity for over 1.1 million people. The Alta project is creating more than 3,000 construction, operation and maintenance jobs, and is contributing more than 1.2 billion dollars to Kern County’s economy.
  • Kern County projects are scheduled to provide 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2015. This will create an estimated 8,000 construction jobs, 1,500 operational jobs and up to 25 billion dollars of investment in Kern County’s future.
  • In Mojave, motels are full of construction workers and millions of dollars of wind turbine components are being staged at the Mojave Air and Spaceport.

“Thanks to Kern County Development Services Agency Chief Ted James and Planning and Community Development Director Lorelei Oviatt for their vision and energy in moving these projects forward at a time when many counties are putting up caution lights on vital wind and solar projects.

“Former Supervisor Don Maben deserves credit for helping to locate wind and solar projects on the desert without encroaching on the military missions at either Edwards Air Force Base or the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake—Kern County’s two largest employers.

No one has worked harder to keep Edwards and China Lake as cornerstones of national defense research than Supervisor Jon McQuiston.”

Business and Tourism:

  • 250 State Farm Insurance families are coming to Kern County in a major workforce consolidation.
  • Tourism is a billion-dollar a year industry here. As other counties have seen tourism revenues fall, our promotional efforts have kept visitors coming to Kern.

Maggard also mentioned the Mojave Spaceport, the hydrogen energy project being built near Elk Hills, the reopening of the historic Padre Hotel and “more than a hundred other new businesses that opened in Kern County last year.”

This is part of the January 28, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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