Carl Gehricke has been seated as a new member of the board of the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District, filling a position vacated in August by the retirement of longtime member Dr. Sam Conklin.

Gehricke has lived in Tehachapi for more than 40 years. He has volunteered for many organizations and was named Citizen of the Year in 2020. 

His appointment by the board was made during an Oct. 14 special meeting.

Community Resource Center

With the demolition of the former Tehachapi Valley Hospital underway across the street from the meeting in the district’s office, the board continued discussion of ideas for a community resource center to be built in its place. 

The old hospital property is owned by the district and demolition is expected to be complete by Oct. 22. The former hospital has not been used since the new hospital at 1100 Magellan Way opened in 2018. The new hospital is also owned by the district but is managed by Adventist Health through a long-term lease.

The board has discussed ideas for the new building for a number of months as a way to use the property for the benefit of the community and to generate needed revenue for the district.

During the special meeting on Oct. 14, the discussion was cut short by the district’s legal counsel, Scott Nave, who was monitoring the meeting and interacting as needed by phone.

Board members were going over a list of ideas for the building and during a discussion of parking lot options, new member Gehricke mentioned that he thought that the movie theater building and the Tehachapi Bible and Bookstore building were the only buildings in the block not owned by the district. The bookstore business is owned by Gehricke’s wife.

With the information that Gehricke potentially has an economic interest in the board’s decisions about its proposed new building, Nave suggested that the board discontinue the discussion until he can communicate with Gehricke to familiarize him with conflict of interest requirements for board members.

California law prohibits officials with a disqualifying conflict of interest from making, participating in making, or using their position to influence a governmental decision. Officials who find they have a disqualifying conflict of interest are generally required to recuse themselves from participating in related decisions.

Continued discussion of plans for the new building was expected at the board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19 (after the deadline for this edition).

Water rights

The agenda for the special meeting also included a presentation from Jay Schlosser, development services director for the city of Tehachapi. The district owns base water rights for Tehachapi Basin water managed by the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District and Schlosser was invited to let directors know options in case they want to sell or lease those rights.

Schlosser explained that water rights are a type of real property and have value. He said the city is actively seeking additional water rights and that a sale of water rights might help the district fund its planned building project.

Negotiations for water rights are among those items that state law allows in closed sessions. The board voted to direct CEO Caroline Wasielewski to negotiate with the city on its behalf. A closed session discussion was set for the board’s Oct. 19 meeting to provide Wasielewski with direction. Any subsequent action by the board to sell or lease its water rights would be reported publicly.

Oct. 19 meeting

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The meeting will be held at the district office, 116 W. E St., Tehachapi. Other agenda items for this meeting include general obligation bond refinancing, CEO compensation, and the schedule for future board meetings.

Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: claudia@claudiaelliott.net.