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City Manager Talks About Cemex, Toxic Lot, Plans For Expansion

 Discussing everything from Santa Clarita’s penchant for cowboy poetry to potential expansion plans to the evolution of the Cemex situation, City Manager Ken Striplin laid out his goals and outlook for the city Thursday on SCVTV’s “Newsmaker of the Week.”

Striplin was named the 25-year-old city’s third manager last month, after his predecessor, Ken Pulskamp, announced he was retiring and then taking a temporary position in Burbank.

Striplin talked about the city’s successful fights for community concerns, such as the Elsmere Canyon landfill and Los Lomas housing development battles, and most recently, the city’s $10 million and counting fight against Cemex.

City Mayor Bob Kellar indicated this year would be a big year in the 14-year fight to keep a massive sand-and-gravel mine out of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Striplin noted that the mentality of both sides has evolved to the point where both the mining company and the city are in an agreement that the best place for a facility would be outside of the SCV.

“Cemex has realized that this isn’t a place where they’re welcome and they want to do business, and they’ve been very cooperative with the city in trying to reach a legislative solution that gives them an out,” he said.

A struggle with dysfunction in Washington in general has been a big obstacle, Striplin said, but added that Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have been integral in the recent effort, as has Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

Whittaker Bermite, a former munitions-factory site near the middle of the city that’s currently a contaminated, barren 1,000-acre plot, was another concern facing Striplin.

Describing the cleanup effort as “a long slow arduous process,” he said city officials are working on a plan with developers and the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

We’re very interested in seeing that cleaned up in a more expeditious manner and seeing that property put to a more productive use,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of infrastructure that runs through that property.”

Striplin didn’t get into specifics, but he said officials are discussing several options -- including taking ownership of the land -- with Steadfast, the company that owns the note to the property.

The most recent plans for the plot, which Striplin said didn’t accurately reflect the current vision for the area, call for several thousand houses to be built there.

As far as immediate plans for city expansion, Striplin said over the last few years, the city’s land size has increased by about 30,000 residents and grown about 20 percent in size, indicating additional growth might not be in the cards for the next few years.
But within the next 25 years, a “one valley, one city” plan will likely be realized.

Public safety, and continuing the city’s low crime rate, are also top priorities for Striplin.

Crediting the partnership with the Sheriff’s Department and the leadership of Capt. Paul Becker, the city manager touted the fact that the crime rate is actually lower than it was five years ago.

He also talked about his journey up the ranks of city management, coming to the city seven years ago as a CSUN senior and city management intern and gradually working his way to the top unelected spot in charge of more than 400 city staffers.

Striplin also jokingly allayed any potential concerns of cowboys and poets throughout the SCV by letting everyone know the annual tradition of the Cowboy Poetry Festival, started by his Pulskamp, was in no danger under his leadership.

To view the complete interview, visit SCVTV.com and click on the tab labeled "Newsmaker of the Week," or visit KHTS for an audio podcast of the interview.