City: file your damage reports ASAP

Public agencies still in process of assessing costs of recovery

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

City: file your damage reports ASAPAs the aftershocks from our historic earthquakes begin to subside, the City of Ridgecrest has shifted its focus from emergency response to recovery.

Residents can report damages to private property by e-mailing “quakedamage@ridgecrest-ca.gov” and list their names, contact information, address, description of damages and estimated costs of repairs. Residents can also request an inspector.

By Wednesday, the city had received 1,081 requests for inspections. Inspectors red-tagged a total of 85 buildings — including 77 residential (mostly mobiles) and 8 commercial. Public Works Director Bard Lower said that although the city has only cleared about half their queue, because of the way inspections were prioritized he anticipates few other red tags in town.

City officials also noted that reporting their damages through the city only contributes to the cumulative report submitted to Federal Emergency Management. Services that the city qualifies for — including loans and reimbursements — will depend on that total, which is not yet available.

Lower also noted that the inspectors currently employed by the city can only determine whether a building is safe to occupy. “Only a contracted structural engineer can assess the damages and give you estimates for the costs of repairs.”

He directed anyone seeking out certified contractors to check a list compiled by city staff and hosted at https://ridgecrest-ca.gov/uploadedfiles/California_Contruction_Contractors_in_the_Indian_Wells_Valley_as_of_May_30_2019.pdf. The spreadsheet includes what type of work each contractor provides.

From July 11-13, the city also set up a Local Assistance Center, which brought together 25 agencies to help impacted residents file for the assistance they need for recovery. Lori Blowers and Antoinette Agostinacci assembled a team of nearly 100 volunteers who served 1,675 residents over the course of the three-day LAC.

Although the LAC has since closed, the city still has a list of agencies and contact information for residents seeking service. (Visit earthquake link at www.ridgecrest-ca.gov for additional resources).

At press time, city officials had partnered with elected leaders from county, state and federal government to release the estimated costs to recover critical infrastructure and other public resources. Those totals were not available at press time.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy hosted a tele-town hall meeting July 16 (following the July 7 meeting hosted at City Hall) to give interested constituents an update on recovery efforts and an opportunity to ask questions.

He noted that he co-authored a last-minute amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to include $100 million in funding to China Lake.

“I know they are still assessing the damage,” he said, but that funding is a place to start.

“Congress passed this unanimously,” said McCarthy. “That doesn’t happen much in this body.”

McCarthy also thanked leaders, including Mayor Peggy Breeden and Supervisor Mick Gleason, for their leadership following the earthquake.

Chief of Police Jed McLaughlin, who also serves as incident commander of the emergency response team, said that now that the chaos is subsiding, city officials are beginning to rebuild. In addition to assembly support from government agencies, McLaughlin has also stressed the importance of gathering the community together. He praised the Etoch family for putting together a community barbecue and movie night in the park. (See related story, this section)

“I felt it was important to get everyone together,” said McLaughlin.

Monte Frisbee, during the question portion of the meeting, recalled that in the early days of the base — which civilian employees also lived onboard the station — the military and civilian employees mixed freely and shared recreational facilities.

“As you know, it’s a single-industry town,” he said. “I am concerned now, as I’ve seen pictures of the seriously damaged gymnasium and athletic facilities.” He said that as the community has changed, and the non-base residents no longer have a public swimming pool or access to the base, he hoped that reconstruction addressed the needs of the whole community — not just those who live on base.

“Not to diminish the needs of the military, but give the civilians a reason to live here.”

McCarthy said that ongoing efforts to move schools off base is reflective of that effort. “I know the mayor is putting together a list of things we need in the community.” One of those items, he acknowledged, is an aquatics facility that could serve the valley.

Pictured: RPD Chief Jed McLaughlin (left) and Ridgecrest City Manager Ron Strand (right) connect with Lauren Skidmore of Vince Fong’s office to discuss what state programs the city might qualify for. - Photo by Rebecca Neipp

Story First Published: 2019-07-08