State of the County address upbeat

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Kern County's Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez delivered the State of the County address Wednesday evening before a packed house at the Marriott Hotel.

Perez is the new chairwoman of the board, and she acknowledged that 2013 had its difficult moments in county government.

"Perhaps the most difficult challenge was Kern Medical Center," said Perez.

The county-owned hospital has been losing millions of dollars annually.

"We discovered that for many years, KMC had been spending far more and collecting far less money than it reported. Something had to be done, and we're doing it," she said.

Other sensitive spots touched on reducing the euthanasia rates for animals. Perez said the county was able to reduce euthanasia by 26 percent from 2012 to 2013. County supervisors this week committed $250,000 toward a countywide spay and neuter plan. It includes participation from communities and nonprofit groups.

On public safety, the county must find a way to supervise and rehabilitate thousands of state inmates released early each year into the county's custody to reduce state prison overcrowding.

Kern County's population has grown to 856,000. County supervisors oversee 42 departments with a total budget of $2.6 billion. Perez stressed the goal is to improve the quality of life in Kern County.

Some of the strongest applause from the audience was for The Outlets at Tejon Ranch. The first phase of the project is slated to open in August.

"Let us rededicate ourselves to making our community a place we are eager to call home," said Perez.