The City of Tehachapi reached out to the community this week with a colorful annual report showcasing accomplishments during 2012 and providing a snapshot of city finances.
Included as a supplement to the Tehachapi News and The Weekender, the eight-page report provided highlights of operations including community development, the police department, airport and other infrastructure. CLICK HERE to view the report.
The report includes a message from City Manager Greg Garrett referencing the last few difficult years.
"In 2008, life changed," Garrett said. "As a nation, we saw our economy bottom out, investments lost, fortunes eliminated, and the brightness of the future dimed. Unfortunately, there was widespread talk of a new normal, stemming from a reluctant acceptance that the unparalled excitement and prosperity that we had seen during the first part of the 21st century would not return in our lifetimes."
Despite the doom and gloom expressed nationally, Garrett said, Tehahapi's "can-do" spirit prevailed.
"The greater community and the City of Tehachapi rejected the concept that we were on the downhill slide," Garrett writes in the annual report. "That didn't mean that we stuck our heads in the sand — we made cuts and set priorities like you probably did in your own households — but we made a conscious choice to find a new way forward. I'm proud to say that because of that commitment by our community, our City Council and our city staff, the City of Tehachapi was on the upswing in 2012."
A report by city Finance Directory Hannah Chung is accompanied by colorful graphs that show how city funds are spent and the General Fund revenue vs. expenditures in the current year budget as compared to budgets since 2008.
"The City of Tehachapi General Fund had another year in the black," Chung said. "Throughout the recession, the City of Tehachapi has maintained a balanced budget, outpacing many of the communities in the surrounding region. Through the hard work of city staff, there is a healthy reserve in the General Fund and city staff expects that trend to continue into 2013."
Sales tax revenue has been an especially bright spot, Chung noted.
"Tehachapi's 2012 upswing took sales tax revenues higher than pre-rececession levels," Chung wrote in the annual report. "Although the city's fiscal year runs from July 1 - June 30, and therefore does not coincide with the end of the calendar year, city revenues are again projected to increase over those of the previous year, and our expenditures are expected to remain fairly steady.
Community Development Director David James provided an overview of work in that area during 2012.
"In 2012, the City of Tehachapi continued to 'build up,' James said. "After several years of community input and hard work of planning staff and the Planning Commission, the city adopted an unconventional and unrivaled General Plan. With few other similar plans nationwide, the City of Tehachapi is on the leading edge of community planning with a renewed focus on livability, sustainability, pedestrian friendliness, and attractive development."
He added that the plan works in concert with the new Greater Tehahapi Specific Plan, adopted by the county, encouraging urban growth within the city limits and rural growth in the county.
"Plans aren't the only things being built in the city," James noted in the report. "New retail centers and light industrial buildings have also been continuing in their steady progression. Specifically, a retail center on Tehachapi Boulevard will be taking the place of the old Mountain Crossing restaurant and another freeway oriented service station has been built at the eastern end of Tehachapi Boulevard."
He noted that 2012 also saw the construction of several new industrial buildings on Tehachapi Boulevard, just east of Dennison.
"These businesses represent new business growth and more jobs for community residents," he said.
Police Chief Jeff Kermode provided an update about public safety in the city's annual report.
"For any community to succeed in the long-term, it must have excellent public safety," Kermode said. "Our own Tehachapi Police Department works hard every day to provide that excellence through a focus on community policing."
In particular, Kermode applauded the efforts of participants in the city's Volunteers in Policing program.
"In 2012, these volunteers provided approximately 3,500 hours of their time and saved the city an estimated $84,630," Kermode said. "TPD also has a strong Police Explorer program with 14 young adults learning policing techniques and life skills. Their hard work has paid off as they've won trophies in several Explorer competitions and even hosted their own here in Tehachapi."
The best policing doesn't stop crime completely, the Chief noted.
"While some property crimes have increased in recent months, the relationships our officers have built with the community has led to many of those crimes being solved quickly and effectively," he noted. "Violent crime also continues to be very low and almost entirely by people who knew each other. Our community is still very safe and working together with the community, our officers will make sure that it stays that way."
Looking toward the future, the Chief described the new police headquarters being developed on C Street.
Making use of an old building, the project allows for redevelopment and adaptive reuse of the previously vacant building and the creation of more community space.
"It will also provide a larger, more functional space for the officers working so hard to keep our city safe," he said.
The city's team includes Assistant City Manager Christopher Kirk, Utility Manager Jon Curry, City Engineer Jay Schlosser and Public Works Director Dennis Wahlstrom and all were involved with infrastructure improvements during 2012.
As described in the annual report, these included a $4.5 million upgrade of the city's wastewater treatment plant, a $2 million grant-funded investment in the downtown area with the addition of landscaping, lighting and accessibility enhancements at multiple intersections and work in the Alta Estates subdivision at the southern end of Curry Street.
As a result of a settlement between the city and the failed housing developer, the city completed roads, sidewalks and storm drains. Within weeks of the award of the project, new housing starts began again, signaling a turn-around in the housing market and a light at tne end of the tunnel for residents living in a previously unfinished neighborhood, Kirk said.
Airport Manager Tom Glasgow, whose position became full-time in March 2012, provided an overview of airport operations in the annual report.
"The Tehachapi Municipal Airport continues to be a destination for pilots wanting to 'fly up' for lower fuel prices and a friendly airport," Glasgow wrote.
"The airport experienced record fuel sales in 2012 and saw continued enhancements with grant funds from the Federal Aviation administration," he said.
"Airport and city staff have also been in conversations for the the Kern County Fire Department's Helitack Crew," he noted. "While the crew has moved operations into a emporary facility at KTSP, a permanent home will be a welcomed addition to an already stellar aviation facility."
The report also draws attentions to other highlights of 2012, including:
• Expanded seating, improved accessibility and other improvements at the Tehachapi Event Center and Rodeo Grounds through a partnership with the Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo Association.
• Completion of a Bicycle Master Plan in a parallel course with Kern County. The wo new plans will help the community develop an effective bicycle network for travel and recreation.
• Development of a conceptual plan for a new "Freedom Plaza" in downtown, along with an announcement that Lehigh Southwest Cement Company will donate $20,000 toward construction, expected to begin this year.
• Partnering with the Kern County Film Commission to "talk up" Tehachapi to the movie industry. Several film shoots in and around Tehachapi during 2012 brought money into the community and even helped the city win a California On Location Award for being such a film friendly destination.
Tehachapi's elected officials were also included in the report, with a notation that "Tehachapi's stock is trending up in 2013" and photographs of newly elected Mayor Phil Smith, Mayor Pro-Tem Susan Wiggins and council members Ed Grimes, Kim Nixon and Mary Lou Vachon.
CLICK HERE to view the annual report online.