Monday, July 23 , 2018, 8:59 am | Fair 74º


Ron Fink: Continued Risk for Lompoc Public After City Council Shoots Down Proposed Fire Station Fix

I am increasingly skeptical of the decision-making abilities of Lompoc City Council members Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega. Their recent decision to effectively kill any efforts to move Fire Station 2 to a more strategically advantageous location is very troubling. 

And even after making this decision they couldn’t offer an alternative plan to alleviate the response time issue — all they did was say “no.”

The need to move the station has been justified by numerous studies dating back to when it was originally built in 1985. At the time, the council indicated that this was just a “temporary measure” until a larger station in a permanent location could be established in a more centralized location.

City councils for several decades were reluctant to address fire impact fees. 

Their reasoning was that keeping impact fees well below what was needed would stimulate growth, and that growth alone would provide needed revenue to properly staff, equip and build public safety facilities. Then they spent the increased revenue on recreational projects. 

That flawed decision-making process has led us to the current situation: not enough money in the bank to fund the needed improvements.

Let’s put this in context. Suppose your spouse says, “let’s buy a new house.” You wouldn’t say, “no, we have to save the money first, then we’ll buy the house,” would you? 

After a lively discussion, you would likely dip into your rainy day savings account to help with the down payment and borrow the rest, then hope that your income level would allow you to pay off the loan in 15 or 30 years. 

That’s what is being proposed for this project. When paid off, the house would cost twice as much as the purchase price due to interest.

How about leasing airport property? 

If you buy the home in an area with a Home Owners Association you’ll pay a service fee forever, and if in a mobile home park, you’ll never own the land it sits on but pay to rent it. Both of these costs will rise with inflation. 

The deal at the airport is no different than real life.

Council member Vega is a realtor, so surely he knows this, and yet he couldn’t apply his knowledge to the fire station project. 

Mosby manages several commercial and residential properties in Lompoc and elsewhere. He also should know how property is bought and projects are built but stubbornly refuses to accept the staff’s recommendations.

The gang of three seems to be relying on former mayor John Linn, who has been a consistent opponent of this project since he was ousted as mayor, for guidance. 

However, Linn has credibility issues: it was he who championed two failed space center project proposals that were being marketed by hucksters who had no demonstrated ability to either build or finance anything. His project development compass is faulty.

The same three have put large sums of General Fund monies at risk by supporting a proposed volunteer effort, currently led by Linn, to build a motorsports park. 

Even though the council has repeatedly said that this effort would cost taxpayers nothing, over $170,000 of our money has already been committed to the project, and I am willing to wager that as this project moves forward even more taxpayer money will be committed to it if these three remain in office.

By refusing to approve the fire station project, they have thrown away nearly $150,000 from the General Fund. These actions call into question their “fiscal responsibility” credentials.

Mosby recently claimed that the council initiated a savings program when the three amigos killed the project, but all they have done so far is merely allot hot air to the idea of a savings program. I am distressed that these three can’t comprehend that in order to save there must be income. 

It will take a massive increase in fire impact and development fees to accumulate enough money for any project of substance, and I am not talking about a few dollars. 

Considering that there are several large projects with registered tract maps on the books that wouldn’t be subject to the new fees, it will take hundreds per square foot to make this happen given the limited amount of undeveloped property that remains in Lompoc.

The current council must keep in mind that these fees impact private property owners who simply want to add a room to their house, families that want to build their dream home and commercial property owners who want to renovate their property. 

Besides, fire fees were just raised in January 2014 using formulas that are consistent with Proposition 26, so I don’t see how they could justify increase them again. Another idea being floated is a fire tax, which would likely meet stiff voter opposition considering all of the recent fee increases.

This irresponsible decision has increased the risk to public safety because the fire department response time issue for the northern and western portions of the city has not been resolved. 

I am waiting patiently for responsible leaders to surface who have solutions, not excuses.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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