Kern County Goes All Out To Land Maintenance Facility
In the Sunday Open Thread I mentioned that Kern County could get thousands of jobs from a high speed rail maintenance hub were it located at Wasco or Shafter. Perhaps as a reflection of the importance of those jobs in a county with a 15.7% unemployment rate, Kern County is working hard to land the facility, starting by negotiating with landowners whose property will likely be needed for it:
Government and business officials here have scarcely begun building support for Kern’s two bids, while Fresno has already won significant community and political support through public outreach, lobbying and site tours for members of the rail authority.
But in negotiations taking place behind the scenes, Kern officials are trying to get the properties in Shafter and Wasco ready for purchase, which could make them easier to develop….
Land ownership could give Kern’s bids an important advantage over Fresno’s, which is owned by dozens of different parties. A single owner controls the Shafter property; three control the one in Wasco.
Although the authority has eminent domain authority and could force owners of the Fresno County property to sell, a spokeswoman said authority members would rather avoid a seizure, which could take extra time and present complications.
Fresno County officials, including Supervisor Henry Perea, are keeping quiet on the question of land ownership, but indicated to the Bakersfield Californian that they expected things to go smoothly – “no hold-ups, no hang-ups” as Perea said – but that is primarily because Fresno County has $25 million they can spend to help convince the landowners of the proposed Fresno maintenance hub location to sell. Kern County doesn’t have any such funding, but is looking to scrounge together $10 to $15 million, possibly from state transportation funds.
I’m agnostic on where this facility goes, but it is good to see that local officials there fully understand the importance of HSR to their economic future – as opposed to other local leaders who seem to act as if we’re not in the depths of a recession caused by an overdependence on oil.