Mayor's State of the City
Last updated 3/24/2021 at 4:56am | View PDF
Mayor Cathy Prout released her State of the City this week; a speech that typically would be given at the annual Chamber Awards Banquet that was canceled due to the pandemic.
Prout gave residents a look into the efforts made during the pandemic to keep the city strong financially and sociologically.
Prout mentioned the strides Shafter has made in helping local businesses with a new program that temporarily reduces fees for existing and new businesses that are building or making improvements. She also mentioned how the city is helping its infrastructure.
The following is the State of the City speech prepared by Prout and city staff.
As your mayor, I have given these speeches before. Every time, I have talked about the changes of the year. I have seen big changes in Shafter over the years, some challenging, many exciting, but the past year has been truly unique.
Many people in Shafter are hurting. Some of us have lost loved ones. We have lost time with family and friends. Our children and grandchildren have missed out on school and activities. Special gatherings have been postponed or moved online, including the one where this speech usually happens. We all miss our normal lives.
As a city government we have also had to adjust. We were forced to rethink everything about how we meet to make decisions and how we deliver services. We have had to do this at the same time as we were already making big changes in the organization. Gabriel Gonzalez started his work as our new City Manager, just the first stay at home orders came out. He hit the ground running and has guided our staff well in responding to the new environment. We are grateful for his experience and steady hand. Then, we began the process of closing the Community Corrections Facility, which represented about half of the City workforce. The Facility contributed millions to City revenues over its history.
It has been quite a year.
Through it all, thanks to the resilience of our residents and businesses, a legacy of prudent financial decisions, and the hard work of our staff, the state of our city remains strong. In fact, despite all of the challenges of this year, I am pleased to say that we are starting 2021 stronger than ever. As I go through the events and accomplishments of the year, I think you will agree.
We had an election this year. It was encouraging to see our residents so engaged in the democratic process. Turnout broke all records. We welcome Pete Espinoza as a new council member and thank Manuel Garcia for his service. Serving you as an elected official is a great honor and responsibility. On behalf of the council, I thank you for the trust you have placed in us.
One of the core functions of our City is to maintain public safety through a dedicated, professional police department. We are proud of our outstanding people who make our police department the envy of the region. Their work and investments continue to pay off with an outstanding reputation. We continued to invest in our police department in 2020, hiring seven new officers. These new hires allowed the department to create a full-time traffic officer position and a K-9 unit. The Shafter Police Department handled 22,692 calls for service in 2020, averaging 62 calls per day! Thank you, officers!
This has been an important year for infrastructure in the city.
We now have TCP removal systems at all of our city wells. This will ensure the safety of our groundwater. Water conservation remains critical, given the ongoing challenges of water in California.
Improving the condition, efficiency, and safety of our roads is a top priority for the Council. This year we completed a major resurfacing of James Street, made improvements to Tulare Avenue, in addition to resurfacing local roads. City staff will be playing a significant role in planning regional projects. One includes new roundabout at the intersection of Highway 43, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe Way.
The Public Works department completed its transition to a new corporation yard this year. The relocation of the Public Works Department has expanded its capacity to keep up with the growth of city.
Community parks are essential to the life of our city. We have been fortunate to secure grant funding to make improvements to our community parks. In the future we look forward to getting resident input on the types of improvements that should be prioritized and built with this money.
Shafter is a place for business. I am happy to report that this remains true. Even in a difficult economic environment, all parts of our city are seeing new investment.
In the historic core of Shafter, the City recently sold the former Brookside Deli building on Central Avenue to Countryside Car Wash. The owner is planning to build a drive through car wash and deli market on site.
As a Council, we recently created a new Business Expansion, Attraction, and Retention Incentive Program. This program temporarily reduces City fees on business investments downtown. We hope this will encourage reinvestment, attract new business, and grow Shafter’s tax base. Several business owners have reached out to explore taking advantage of the new program.
Along Lerdo Highway, construction has begun on a Corner Market and gas station. Phase two of the project will include a truck fueling island in the future. In addition, the S.O.S. Recycle Center is planning to open a new processing plant in the Minter Field Industrial Center.
Along Seventh Standard, The Wonderful Company has begun construction of its first phase Amenity Center. The amenity center is a 40,000 square foot, two story vocational training facility. When the Center is complete, it is expected to include an office building, parking garage, food market, and wellness center. The Wonderful Logistics Park continues to attract major companies and brings thousands of jobs to Shafter. The 220 million-dollar Walmart cold storage facility has been essentially completed. The company plans to begin shipping from the cold storage facility in April.
Three one million square foot shell buildings are in various stages of permitting and construction in the Park. One building is an expansion of the Ross Distribution Center. The second building will be a Fulfillment Center for Amazon and the third building will be for a future park tenant. All representing well over one hundred million dollars of investment in Shafter.
East from the Logistics Park along Seventh Standard, Derrell’s Mini Storage has begun construction on 475,000 square feet of storage space. At Gossamer Grove, building continues to grow quickly with an ultimate buildout of 3,000 homes. 1,000 home permitted and 800 home already occupied.
As companies invest in the potential of Shafter, we continue to believe in investing in the potential of our young people. The City of Shafter has a unique commitment to education. This year, as so many children have been learning from home, that commitment has been significant. Our focus areas remain familiar - ensuring access to books, have provided 2,000 hours of online tutoring, inspiring enrichment classes, providing learning kits, and financial support for Advanced Placement and Bakersfield College students.
Initial utility and site work have already begun on the Learning Center’s “Building Dreams Together” expansion project. The project will add a classroom, a children’s library, and a plaza to the Learning Center with the generous support of our long-time corporate partner, GAF. The project is expected to be completed later this year. In addition, the Learning Center has been working alongside with Listen to Shafter on a mural project located behind the Hacienda Market on Sunset.
As you can see, our City has been busy. Responding to the changes of 2020 has forced us to be resilient and creative. We stand here near the beginning of 2021 hopeful that we can leave some of the challenges of the past year behind us. The people of Shafter have proven themselves ready for anything. Our community is strong, our employees are resilient and together, we continue to look forward to an even brighter future.