The Ridgecrest City Council at their meeting last week voted to accept $17,028 in grant funds for a safety fence at the Inyokern Transit Hub Station. There is a catch, however. The funds are not currently available. According to Public Works Director Dennis Speer, council was asked to approve acceptance of the funds for the project in case the funds do become available. The project will not be undertaken until the funds are secured, according to Speer.
The funding would from the Transit System Safety, Security, and Disaster Response account under the California Transit Security Grant Program (CTSGP) for fiscal year 2016-2017. The funding was authorized in general by the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality and Port Security Bond Act of 2006 for capital projects that provide increased protection against safety and security threats and for transit operators to develop disaster response transportation systems. Funds are administered by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
A letter from Cal OES to Dennis Speer dated Aug. 1 reads as follows:
“After review of the Investment Justification, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) determined the city of Ridgecrest meets program guidelines and is eligible to receive Prop 1B funding in the total amount of $17,028 for Inyokern Hub Station Security Fencing.
“Although this project meets the pertinent eligibility criteria, your project is subject to available bond funding. Currently, there are no state funds available to support this project or reimburse your organization for eligible expenditures. However, Cal OES will update you when new information becomes available. In order to ensure an expedient process once funding is available, please submit [listed documents] within six weeks from the date of this letter.”
The letter gives no indication when and if funding is expected to become available.
According to a staff report, staff recommended placing security fencing at the new Inyokern Transit Hub Station as an appropriate project because it would “provide an enhancement of security and safety at the facility where the transit [system] coordinates with Kern Regional Transit to drop off and pick up passengers along the Eastern Sierra corridor.” The report adds that the fencing would act as a deterrent to vandalism and theft.
The topic was listed as a consent calendar item and pulled for discussion by Councilwoman Lindsey Stephens.
“I wanted to know, why do we need a fence? Have there been any incidents occurring?” Stephens asked.
She also brought up the issue of funding availability.
“In the agenda packet there is a letter saying our project is eligible but it says currently there are no state funds available to support or reimburse your project,” Stephens said, referring to the letter from Cal OES.
“That's correct,” Speer said. “They are approving the acceptance of the funds if the funds do become available.”
Speer added that fencing is considered advisable to provide site security for facilities such as restrooms.
“We thought it would be best to secure that site.”
Stephens asked if bus drivers would have to carry keys. Speer responded in the affirmative.
“So we would go ahead and take the money and hope somewhere down the road that that they would reimburse us? Or we're not going to do anything until the money is available?” Stephens asked.
After an additional question from Mayor Peggy Breeden, Speer clarified that council would agree to accept the funds if they become available, but would not carry out the project until then.
Approval was unanimous. All five council members were present.