Kern County faces strong headwinds in 2022, but looks to proceed with milestone projects

·3 min read

Jan. 2—Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop is optimistic of Kern County's long-term future, but he sees much work the county has to do in the short term to make that future happen.

From confronting the state over its anti-oil policies to addressing lackluster growth in tax revenue, significant headwinds face the county in the future.

"There are big things that we have to get done in Kern County and it's going to require an all-hands-on-deck approach for everybody here," he said. "We have challenges with water that are going to affect our agriculture community, and we have obviously real financial headwinds where the cost of running our business continues to increase, and the revenues that we have in any given year are not increasing at the same rate. While I'm really optimistic about the future, and all of the things that we have done over the next several years for a bright future — those are challenges."

Still, he remained hopeful that the county would be able to oversee the challenges it faces.

Below are some of the projects the county will begin in 2022.

Hard Rock Casino

If Gov. Gavin Newsom allows it, Kern County hopes to begin construction on the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tejon in 2022.

The project would bring much-needed entertainment options to Kern County. The plans include a 166,500-square-foot gaming floor along with an 11-story hotel room. The Tejon Indian Tribe has proposed the casino for farmland in Mettle, and the the federal government signed off on the project last January.

Environmental review for the casino began in 2016, and local residents have been eagerly awaiting construction ever since.

Now, Newsom must concur with the decision before construction on the project can begin.

"All of this hangs in the balance up at the capitol with the governor," Alsop said. "We are waiting on him to make a decision on and complete whatever it is he needs to get done to make this project go forward."

New homeless strategy

Kern County plans to rapidly scale up its response to homelessness in 2022. To complement a new ban on camping in most public spaces, the county will spend around $8.3 million in federal funds over the next four years on homelessness mitigation and enforcement.

Those programs are slated to begin throughout the next year. They range from two new rapid response teams to a new "safe parking and camping" site outside the county's M Street Navigation Center. The county also plans to facilitate more mental health outreach to the homeless population by funding additional mental health experts in the Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff's Office.

"If we don't see the outcomes we are striving to produce," Alsop said in an address to the Kern County Taxpayers Association in December, "we will be quick-change artists, and pivot to priorities and plans that do produce value-added results, not just for those afflicted, but everyone living, working and raising families here."

New facility for the Kern County coroner

The bodies are piling up in Kern County, literally. But the completion of a new coroner's office will provide a long-awaited upgrade to the county facility charged with investigating the cause of death for thousands of the deceased every year.

Built in 1974, the current facility is meant to house 35 bodies. It now is being forced to store around 175 at any given time. Trailers at Lerdo Jail have been used to hold dead bodies, a stopgap measure the county viewed as unsustainable.

Approved by supervisors in March, the $28 million upgrade will fund the renovation of a manufacturing facility just outside of northern Bakersfield.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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