Council to revisit funds for economic development

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Potential awarding of grants to proponents looking to diversify the local economy will once again be up for discussion at tonight’s meeting of the Ridgecrest City Council, held at 6 p.m. in council chambers.

At the June 18 meeting, the council heard from five applicants looking for funding for projects ranging from business development consulting to manufacturing to alternate energy.

With a limited amount of funds available (estimated at $1.35 million, although that number was contested during the course of discussion), council ultimately directed staff to talk to three companies to establish reduced levels of funding that would be dependent on the accomplishment of certain milestones relating to the creation of jobs and generation of revenue locally.

The three finalists included Pertexa, a start-up company that proposes to manufacture and support its electronic medical chart locally; CalUAS, which proposes a multi-pronged venture that includes the local manufacture and support of its unmanned aerial vehicle; and EH Group, which proposes a plan to capture alternate energy sources and turn biowaste into fuel.

“At the time of agenda posting, the staff has not met with all of the firms,” reported Economic Devel-opment Manager Gary Parsons. “Therefore, the additional information requested by council had not been completely gathered and formatted in order to be inserted into this agenda packet.”

Parsons added that the grant assistance agreement — which outlines benchmarks for each company to meet before installments of funding are released — was still under legal review.

He said the council had originally allocated $1 million of one-time tax allocation bond money for industrial development. “However, staff was directed to provide new reduced funding levels from each firm and a method to fund these new reduced levels from TAB or other funding sources,” reported Parsons.

“Since we have not yet established the new funding levels for all firms, staff is unable to provide this information at the time of agenda posting. Staff will provide this information to council at its scheduled meeting and will attempt to provide it earlier if possible.”

The staff recommendation to council in the selection of firms is based on the proposal that shows the best return on investment through generation of tax revenue, has the largest production of local jobs at the lowest cost per job, shows diversification of the market sector from the existing current dependence on DOD funding, has the best possibility for long-term viability and continued operations with the city and demonstrates an assurance of performance.

Mayor Dan Clark has also requested a discussion item regarding the construction of the wastewater treatment plant. According to staff reports, Clark brought forward several suggestions during budget hearings that could increase revenue or one-time reimbursements for the city.

One of those suggestions was to expedite construction of the wastewater treatment plant, which he said would enable the city to begin selling tertiary water earlier than projected.

The discussion item will allow council to give staff direction on how to proceed with that process.

Items on the consent calendar include a resolution adopting sewer availability charges, a professional services agreement with Wildan Engineering to provide GIS services in support of sewer collection system condition assessment and an agreement with consultant Jim McRea to provide services relating to community and economic development.

The public is invited to attend. Proceedings will be broadcast live on Mediacom channels 6 and 41.

Story First Published: 2014-07-02