County OKs casino services

County OKs casino servicesBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Kern County approved a fire services agreement with the Timbisha Shohone tribe, advancing the tribe’s proposed casino development in Ridgecrest.

The tribe and the city of Ridgecrest came to a Municipal Services agreement in 2016, which outlines mitigation payments to the city for impact fees and emergency services. But the city contracts with Kern County for fire services, requiring an additional agreement between the tribe and the county.

The tribe will pay an estimated $514K into the county fire fund over the next 20 years. According to Senior Fiscal and Policy Analyst Thomas Brown from the county Chief Administrative Office, the amount is will be calculated using a standard 1-percent property tax assessment of the project.

While the development may require additional services from the county, the agreement only includes explicit details for fire services.

“The county and tribe acknowledge that law enforcement services are provided primarily by the city of Ridgecrest and do not anticipate the facility should create substantial impacts upon the Sheriff’s Office,” said Brown. “Both parties shall enter into good-faith negotiations for the provision of such services should the need arise, depending on Sheriff’s Office calls for services generated by the facility.”

The tribal-state compact includes that the facility will be subject to inspections regarding applicable codes, public-health standards, food and beverage handling, water quality standards and other federal, state and county workplace and occupational health and safety standards.

County counsel reviewed the agreement in consultation with the Kern County Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office, Public Health and Planning and Natural Resources departments. Staff’s recommendation was to adopt the agreement.

“This is a monumental occasion for our people,” said George Gholson, member of the Timbisha Shoshone tribal council. “I have been personally working on this project for 12 years. We are excited it is happening for us, because it will give us the ability to provide better education, better health and a better standard of living for our people.”

Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason – whose district includes Ridgecrest – said that in his more than 15 years, the proposed casino is “the most divisive issue we’ve ever had, bar none.”

“Water is big. This is huge,” he said. “The issue was primarily due to the location of the site of a casino. There were some – many – that objected on moral grounds of a casino going into town, but a lot more people disagreed with the location.”

He added that any issue with the casino’s proposed location – just outside the front gate of NAWS China Lake – has been resolved with Ridgecrest City Council’s 3-2 approval of the land sale.

Gleason said the county’s only involvement with the development would be to provide fire services and other services as negotiated in the future.

“Understanding that our relationship is limited and our ability to affect any decision whether this goes in or not is ‘zero’ – I’m going to make a motion to go with staff’s recommendation,” he said. Fourth District Supervisor David Couch seconded, and the board unanimously approved the item.

Pictured: Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason — News Review file photo

Story First Published: 2020-06-12