Serving the community since 1922

Workshop sets priorities for Wasco's next year

On Saturday, a strategic planning workshop for the fiscal 2023-24 year was held for the City Council and city leaders to come to a consensus on priorities that will help the staff form the upcoming budget.

At the workshop, the council and key staff members shared updates on their efforts, accomplishments and initiatives related to each department such as finance, public works, community development and human resources.

The "impact categories" discussed were enhancing financial stability and sustainability, enhancing and modernizing city facilities, improving and maintaining the city's infrastructure, implementing strategic economic development, enhancing employee development and retention, defining and prioritizing community building initiatives and public safety.

Core values visited were trust, respect, integrity, teamwork, ownership and innovation, all while staying true to the city mission statement: "We are committed to a purpose greater than ourselves. What we do makes a difference and leaves a proud legacy. We serve together through these values."

The workshop centered on the city's vision statement: "The city of Wasco vision is to provide its citizens and business community effective municipal services while maintaining a historical sense of community values."

The workshop's goal was to prioritize focus areas to guide staffing decisions, departmental organization and facility design, knowing that staff is to remain nimble with changing circumstances, opportunities and realities.

The three areas of focus were money, infrastructure and people.

Regarding new business, Assistant City Manager Maria Lara said, "We want to be known as 'Wasco is a place to do business.' In the works are Dutch Brothers and Grocery Outlet. We have the momentum going, and the staff is on it. We want to make sure we keep them going."

Lara shared a recent win with a grant secured to host monthly spay and neuter clinics for the next three years. The city also has a $1 million grant to convert and replace city transit buses to electric power.

She said a goal is to continue working with department heads to ensure grants are implemented per requirements and deadlines.

Finance Director Isarel Perez-Hernandez reported on department accomplishments. He highlighted five timely independent city audits, annual operating and CIP (capital improvement projects) budget adoptions, and two awards the city has received for for operating budgets.

He championed an initiative to explore an internship pathway with Bakersfield College and CSUB for future accountants.

Public Works Director Luis Villa gave an update on the new animal shelter to be built and stated that $1.5 million for that purpose has been secured.

"Hopefully, we can get the design this year."

With sanitation, he said the city purchased two new refuse trucks, one for residential and one for commercial.

"We completed a rate study and implemented a new rate change and service."

He said an important initiative is to continue to update the refuse truck fleet to help create an efficient refuse recovery system that is sustainable and can grow with the city.

"We have a great staff, and everyone pitches in to jump in and do it."

The new Police Department was discussed, and Chief Charlie Fivecoat said, "Our job is to keep the peace, deter crime and get out in the community with the officers.

A vital initiative for this is to recruit personnel and the police department transition.

City Manager Scott Hurlbert wants to see the Police Department through start-up and full operations. He said $1.1 million has been appropriated to date.

Key milestones achieved were selecting technology platforms, establishing department policies and negotiating a transition protocol with the Kern County Sheriff's Office, including a provisional hand-off date.

"We are at least 90 days ahead of schedule. We are way ahead of what anyone thought we'd be."

Another accomplishment was negotiating settlements with the California High-Speed Rail Authority and resolving numerous project impacts, including funding for the cleanup of the former labor camp.

"This team that we have here is why it works. There is a great willingness of everyone to wear different hats."

Council members submitted their top priority concerns, including public safety, city building infrastructure, code enforcement, street repairs, telecommunication infrastructure, community engagement/communication and the high-speed rail.

Hurlbert reviewed the list of capital improvements and their status, with 100% completion of the annex parking lot fence and gates, replacing the aging code compliance fleet, replacing an inoperable forklift, replacing a mower, installing neighborhood street lighting and replacing the aging wastewater fleet.

"It's great that we can have these every year so that staff can understand the council's priorities. It helps to guide our direction for the year so we can plan accordingly," Mayor Vincent Martinez said.


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