Civic engagement appears to be on the rise in Tehachapi — at least in terms of the number of people attending City Council meetings.
Future City Council meetings will be held at the Tehachapi Unified School District’s board room at the Wells Education Center, 300 S. Robinson St., due to increased public attendance, the high noise level interfering with police business at the Police Department location, the room capacity exceeding recommended levels and concerns for public safety.
On Aug. 6, the council unanimously voted to move the meeting location back to the Wells Education Center, with meetings no longer held at the Tehachapi Police Department's community room at 220 W. C St.
The city will pay $30 per hour to rent the school district room.
Over the past several months, attendance at council meetings has exceeded the maximum capacity of 68 people at the community room.
The Kern County Fire Department said “this creates hazardous conditions by obstructing emergency exits from the room, potentially exposing the city to unnecessary civil liability in the event of some type of disaster," according to documents in the meeting agenda. Since that time the room occupancy has been reduced to 49 people.
KCFD also asked that if meetings continued at the community room, that new double doors with push-to-open handles be installed. But this posed a significant cost.
Meetings and the noise level in the lobby of the police department interfered with the Police Communications Center and dispatchers' ability to hear radio traffic and calls to the department, according to the agenda. Members of the public have also voiced concerns in the past that they couldn't hear council members due to a lack of a sound system.
“It was interfering with police business and we need to move back to a place more suitable for the meetings,” Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger said.
Equipment purchased for live-streaming meetings and back-up copies that are uploaded to youtube.com are available to be moved.
On Feb. 20, the City Council voted to move the meetings to the TPD due to "a conflict in scheduling” with meetings being held at the Wells Education Center. The community room at TPD would also have allowed for more audio and video upgrades.