Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 3:43 am | Overcast 61º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Lompoc Council Backs Off Plans For Proposed Fire Station After Deciding It’s Too Costly

Tuesday's 3-2 vote kills plans for city's new Fire Station No. 2 after months of City Council gridlock

Lompoc City Council members ended a months-long impasse on a proposed fire station by voting 3-2 to direct city staff to develop a savings fund from development impact and other fees to be used to build a new station at some point in the future. 

Mayor Bob Lingl warned that voting for the plan proposed by Councilman Jim Mosby “is killing the fire station for an undetermined amount of time.”

Councilmen Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega voted for the savings plan, with Lingl and Councilmen DeWayne Holmdahl voting against.

The proposed $14 million, 23,373-square-foot station is almost 10 times the size of the station it is intended to replace, Fire Station No. 2 built in 1985 at 1100 North D St.

With financing, the cost of the proposed station jumps to $29.8 million spread out over 27 lease payments paid from the city’s general fund budget.

The bulk of the nearly two hours of council discussion Tuesday centered on recently released financial data from staff that projected paying for the station would require using most of the $2 million emergency cash reserves for several years in order to balance the city budget.

“You are rooting into emergency funds for six, eight, 10 years,” Mosby said. 

“If something like Flint, Michigan, and their water issue happened here and you needed to buy bottled water, that’s the type of thing you have an emergency fund for. Where do we go deeper after that?”

He reminded council members that previous councils laid off employees, put a freeze on hiring, and placed employees on unpaid furlough days to protect the emergency cash reserves.

“Since 1994, that $2 million has been guarded and protected by multiple councils for emergencies,” he said.

Holmdahl claimed Mosby’s savings plan was “just another easy way for the City Council to kick the can down the road.”

But Mosby said he was proposing the council “do what previous councils should have done and start a savings account not just for this project, for other projects as well. I’m saying stop kicking things down the road.”

Prior to the vote, City Manager Patrick Wiemiller said he welcomed Mosby’s proposal to update impact fees intended to pay for new or replacement facilities required by new growth, regardless of the vote on the proposed fire station.

“It takes not only the foresight to establish those impact fees, it takes the intestinal fortitude to continue to defend those along the way over the years,” Wiemiller said.

In response to a question from Vega, Wiemiller acknowledged that approving the project would delay being able to pay for the needs of other departments, including police, streets and parks for an unknown period of time.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a turn-the-corner critical mass on our revenue soon. I think that’s going to be a steady, long grind,” he said.

“If we move forward with this, we’re dipping into the economic uncertainty fund with our creative financing to the point where we’ve put all our eggs in one basket,” Vega said.

“It’s almost like we’re willing to go down with the ship as far as the police (department) is concerned.”

After the vote, Wiemiller said he was disappointed but “very upbeat” that the council voted to implement a savings plan for future facilities.

“Hopefully we can circle back then, having conquered that, and be able to make a recommendation on fire stations and other facilities based upon a revenue stream that would be established.”

Lingl said he was satisfied that the council ended the extended stalemate over the proposed project.

“I’m not disappointed because the process we have in the city for a council of five people to make decisions worked,” he said.

“There’s no doubt it was a gamble, but it was a gamble I was willing to take because of the need for a fire station.”

Noozhawk contributing writer Carol Benham is a longtime local journalist who lives in Lompoc. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >