Michelle Vance, district manager for the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District, speaks to the City Council on March 19 on plans for the district and requests $15,000 to help fund a business plan.

New information on the next steps toward passing a $43 million bond measure for the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District — or less if that's what residents want — was announced this week.

The district is creating a business plan to refurbish and rejuvenate existing facilities and hopefully add more. The district wants to see what the community wants, and how much people are willing to pay in additional property taxes to make it happen.

"We want to do this right and do a project Tehachapi can afford," district manager Michelle Vance said at the March 19 City Council meeting. She made the rounds and talked to several groups about the plans in the last week.

Already help is coming: At both the City Council and park district board meetings, $40,000 was granted to help collect data and draw up a business plan. A total of $15,000 was granted from specific park-allocated funds at the council meeting, Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District chipped in $25,000 on March 20.

These funds will be used to hire Isom Advisors, a Division of Urban Futures Inc., to provide consulting services to include ideas on the bond, conduct a telephone survey and hire Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture to provide a study on the proposed new recreation center.

Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture will not need to provide engineering drawings, but rather a concept of what the new facilities will cost to maintain, operate, manage and build compared to similar facilities in other parts of the country. It will also offer an opinion on the revitalization of the current properties owned by the district to bring them up to code, Vance said.

Jon Isom from Isom Advisors explained at the March 20 TVRPD meeting, making a PowerPoint presentation, that residents have a say on how much they are willing to financially support the new recreation projects, and the tax rates for the bond.

The next step is to create a program the community is willing to support and make the project a success. It also is a way to test the needs of the community before the election, Isom said.

A random telephone survey will go out to registered voters of the district at a cost of $7,500. The services from the architecture firm will amount to a fixed fee of $48,478 with a possible addition of $11,100 for other expenses, according to documents provided at the TVRPD meeting.

“The computer generates randomly 400 people to pick from and the idea from that is that you want the 400 registered voters to be reflective of all voters and that is the whole part of the survey,” Isom said after the meeting.

In the next few months, the district will ask residents to provide feedback on what is really important to them through meetings as well. If the community doesn’t want a certain activity or new amenity, then the bond money would likely be spent on what is most going to be used or wanted, added Isom.

Bond options

Even though the district is going after a $43 million bond, it doesn’t mean that after residents' opinions are collected this specific amount will be requested at the Nov. 6 election. It will cater to what residents want and what the district can afford, Vance said at the TVRPD meeting.

The PowerPoint provided by Isom also showed the district is made up of 17,981 total voters, with 54 percent Republicans, 19 percent Democrats, and 27 percent others.

Additionally, 62 percent of voters submitted their vote by mail. Voter age demographics showed residents in the district being 65 years and older at 31 percent, 55 to 64 years at 22 percent, and 45 years and younger at 47 percent.

Depending on the tax rate and growth, residents might pay anywhere from $12 to $39 per $100,000 assessed property value per year

Dream of district

Vance explained the district’s dream for the new facilities. It could include a 60,000-square-foot new recreation facility at a cost of around $11 million.

This could bring a conference center, banquet room with commercial kitchen, rock climbing area, new pool areas for different age groups, juice and coffee bar, day care and STEM learning area, and other activities such as games catering to more mature residents. 

It would most likely be located downtown and within walking distance for students at Tehachapi High School.

A Mountain Bike Skills Park with paved areas for skateboarders and bicyclists is also a possibility. 

Vance said she will travel to Colorado soon to meet with managers of similar facilities to ask questions and see what is takes to build and maintain the facilities Tehachapi has in mind.

Residents speak out at council meeting

More than 50 people were at the March 19 City Council meeting to give their opinion on the proposed new district facilities and business plan. Several times people applauded in support of the plan to have options for the park district and for the City Council to pass the $15,000 donation.

“I’ve been in this community for over 25 years and I’ve been waiting all that time for us to have a proper swimming pool and decent facilities to fix the parks,” said resident Deborah Hand.

Blaine Ferguson, a Tehachapi resident, said as a father and volunteer coach at TVRPD, he wanted the council to know that $15,000 is not a huge amount to donate to help kids have options to enjoy recreation.

Michael Biglay, a Tehachapi resident who is running for Kern County Second District supervisor, had a different opinion. 

“For a conservative town, you are actually taking over the role of private industry in these convention centers," Biglay said. "I see maybe half a million dollars to fix the parks she is talking about, paving, moving the bathrooms, all the repairs that need to be done, so that’s contracting it out. I don’t see where we will spend $43 million."

He added that if the bond moves forward, he would fight against it. 

In reply, Vance said, “The $43 million is the maximum amount we would go after. That doesn’t mean we are going to." The regulations and environmental impact evaluations are very expensive, plus the work has to be done with prevailing wage, she added.

The district is slated to adopt a resolution on a financial plan at the June board meeting, with a date of Aug. 10 for the final statement. Then the statement will be prepared to submit to voters for the the Nov. 6 election.