Local News

Wednesday, Oct 24 2012 09:03 AM

Improvements coming to district parks

As the Tehachapi Valley Parks and Recreation District continues to move forward with its master plan, and the hiring of a new district manager, the short-term objective is simple -- to clean up and spruce up the district's existing facilities.

A project underway is the installation of two doggie water stations at Meadowbrook Dog Park this week.

Newly-appointed director Paul Press expressed difficulty in accessing the dog park and stressed to the board the the need to include the dog park at Meadowbrook into the master plan.

"If we are going to promote it, let's do it right," said Press who was also nominated to the position of vice-chair at last Tuesday's meeting.

"Places on the coast have beautiful dog parks and we need to look at that model and expand on that."

Chairman Gayle Stewart agreed, adding that the dog park is considered by many as a destination in Tehachapi.

Other upcoming improvements talked about included the possibility of painting the exterior of the Dye Natatorium, and replacing existing trash cans at Central Park with a few recycling bins, which could be paid for by potentially tapping into the City of Tehachapi's state-funded beverage container recycling grant.

The city, which receives $5,000 per year to fund recycling programs, is open to the idea said Christie Copus who manages the recycling grant program, but the parks district would have to put in for the money which is strictly limited to recycling.

Another avenue for funding improvements to Tehachapi's parks, was the suggestion of utilizing the district's Quimby dollars.

Originally authorized by local governments in California in 1975, the Quimby Act (California Government Code §66477) requires that along with setting aside land, and donating conservation easements developers also pay fees to be used for park improvements.

Many local agencies have found that the Quimby Act provides a consistent means to supplement strained agency budgets.

Stewart estimates the district has about $70,000 available Quimby dollars.

District manager search

Meanwhile, the district has withdrawn its call for resumes for the hiring of a new district manager, as it has received 35 applications from all over the US.

An ad hoc committee comprised of director Nick Cyr, City Manager Greg Garrett, Bob Lerude of Kern County's parks department, Michelle Vance of Supervisor Zack Scrivner's office and Stewart will now begin conducting 11 phone interviews in an effort to recommend two to three candidates for the board to interview.

"I do not have an exact timeline right now of when a new director will be chosen since we are in the very beginning of the preliminary interviews," Stewart said. "Thankfully, we have a very competent interim director, and this gives us the opportunity to diligently move forward and engage thoroughly in the process."

Nevertheless, the current agreement for Interim Director Debbie Williams, effective July 31, 2012, expires on Oct. 31. However, it includes automatic extensions for successive periods of one month each until a permanent director is brought on board.

District caps OT, CTO

Also on Tuesday's agenda, was the approval of a new overtime and compensatory time policy aimed at trying to work down the large cushion of compensatory time off to address the district's budget issues.

The new policy states that all overtime needs to be pre-authorized in writing except in extreme emergencies, and that compensatory hours cannot exceed 40 hours.

"There has been a potentially high liability were someone to accumulate a lot of CTO and then leave," Williams said. "The board chose to cap this to lessen our liability, as CTO must be paid out as overtime."

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