Public outcry over the Tehachapi City Council’s initial decision to reject a state-funded grant to supply 474 trees for urban greening in the city prompted council members to reconsider and agree to submit an application to the California Natural Resource Agency requesting $889,300.
At the beginning of the Oct. 1 meeting, Mayor Pro-tem Susan Wiggins and Councilman Phil Smith voted in favor, while councilmen Kenneth R. Hetge and Dennis Walhstrom voted in opposition. At the end of the meeting, all council members reconsidered and voted unanimously in favor of submitting the application to the state.
Tehachapi city resident George Sandy said, “I think I have witnessed a shameful performance by certain individuals on the council tonight. This seems to follow a trend afflicting a malaise on the members of this little city. Basically I sense a basic distrust of the city staff and their efforts to perform their duties.”
He added, “To push this wonderful grant over the hill to some other city that’s got their hand out and ready, kind of follows a trend.”
Michael Davies, a city resident and candidate for the at-large City Council seat, said, “Let’s get the grant first before we do the design. I agree, we don’t want to spend money to do something we might not even get. Why don’t we re-vote it?”
The grant would allow trees to be planted on Valley Boulevard from Curry toward the west, along the Tehachapi Boulevard bike path, Antelope Run from Highline to Tehachapi Boulevard and other areas, said Jay Schlosser, the city's development services director.
The grant application said, “The citywide tree planting and storm water capture project provides urban greening by adding approximately 474 trees with additional plants." It added that it is along 2.5 miles of bike paths and public spaces.
City council members and city staff brought up several points.
“It would have been more beneficial to the council had we had just a simple rendition of the way the medians would be put together, the way they would look, the way that structure would come together for the community,” Hetge said.
He added later in the meeting that the City Council does not have enough time to review and ask questions to city staff after the agenda is sent out and posted for each meeting, the Thursday before the Monday meeting by 5:30 p.m.
“You as a staff member need to reach out to council members,” Hetge said, directing his comment to Schlosser.
Schlosser said he is always available to council members to reach out to him for questions and recommended when future grants were to come before the council, a presentation be made one meeting before the council voted on the document.
Walhstrom said, “We‘ve got Monday to discuss it, which is kind of tough.” He added, “I would like to know more information.”
After more than an hour, Walhstrom said, “Obviously we haven’t been doing what we have supposed to be doing because we are sitting back and letting bureaucracy run us. It’s just not right and I hate to smack the citizens for that. I truly do because it's probably a good project."
Smith said, "This is our money, when they say it's a grant — it's your money and my money and everybody in this room’s money. So if we can get a grant passed and accepted, any time we get a grant, I’m in favor of it."
Wiggins said she thought the grant could enhance the areas being discussed and said, “I’m all in favor of anything that will make it look better."
City Manager Greg Garrett said that the design phase occurred at additional expense and was not to be drafted, until the funds would be issued.
“We are not allowed to design it yet and we just met with the state last week and they informed us that the resolution needs has to be passed by the City Council agreeing that we want to continue to close. We haven’t even entered the design phase,” Garrett said.