Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 1:36 pm | Partly Cloudy 61º

 
 
 
 

Ron Fink: Election Over, Now They Must Lead

The results are pretty clear; the election is over, the signs are down and the votes have been counted. Now all these folks must figure out how to lead us through the next couple of years.
 
In Lompoc, as in many communities, we elect a mayor and two council members every two years. This year’s choices were limited to only three council candidates; why that is the case, no one really knows.
 
One issue drowned out all others this campaign season, but there are many other important issues that need work.
 
The first big issue is the budget. Shortly after the new year begins, city staff will begin preparing what can be a complicating budget document for council members and the public to try to figure out.

Contained in it are many twists and turns as money flows in from many sources and shifts from fund to fund; some must be used for very specific services.  
 
It is hoped the new financial management software and hardware purchased by the city will be ready to help simplify this task. Council members will have to pay attention to assure the budget numbers make sense and that taxpayers are getting the most bounce for their buck.
 
The public-safety infrastructure is old and in many cases undersized to provide an adequate level of service. No one discussed this seriously during the campaign.

Maybe it isn’t as glitzy as a motorsports park or new soccer fields, but it is far more important to the community at large to have the capacity to meet public-safety demands.
 
The emergency call center is too small to accommodate the number of needed call-takers and dispatchers.

The Emergency Operations Center is nearly non-existent.

The police station is undersized.

And, not only does Fire Station No. 2 need to be relocated, the Fire Department needs more storage space for its equipment.
 
Constructing adequate facilities and equipping them with the technology needed to handle large-scale emergencies will be expensive. The council must come up with a reasonable answer or the residents of Lompoc will be at risk when they need city services the most.
 
The utilities infrastructure needs work, too. In that past few years, the council has raised utility rates several times with the justification that many projects are needed to replaced aged water and waste-water piping and valves. However, few of these projects have materialized. They should ask why.
 
Everyone can agree the park system needs a serious overhaul. But where can the council find money in a general-fund budget that has been stretched to the max trying to keep pace with the ever increasing needs of a growing city?
 
Suppose park-use agreements were created that encouraged sports leagues to assume responsibility for maintenance of the parks they use in lieu of fees? Of course they would have to pay for the utilities they used, but physical maintenance like lawn mowing and field preparations would be their responsibility.
 
This would leave other venues such as the community/senior center and aquatic center. It is impractical to try to task the users for maintaining these facilities so the user fees should be examined to assure a significant portion of the operating cost is born by folks who use the facilities.
 
Next is how to increase revenue for the general fund. A zoning ordinance update is underway that I hope will create an atmosphere that will stimulate business growth in town.

One of the primary goals of this effort is to eliminate negative statements and replace them with positive polices that will encourage rather than discourage the business community.
 
Some projects are in the planning loop that could help. A new industrial park on West Central could bring manufacturing jobs and tax revenue if it doesn’t become a warehousing area.

Infill projects and renovations in the Old Town area could revitalize the original town center and bring boutique business along with needed sales tax dollars.
 
Somehow, the council needs to figure out how to avoid wasting staff time on wild goose chases. The three-year struggle over the Motorsports Park is a perfect example of what turned out to be a waste of time and money.

Inevitably, the council will create a list of priorities for the city manager to work on, but the caution note is to make them meaningful and limit the list to a manageable effort.
 
What would those priorities look like?

Maximize the pursuit of state and federal grant funding to support infrastructure improvement.

Revisit development fees to assure projects pay for staff time and increased service levels.

Revisit usage fees for the park/recreational system.

Perform an efficiency analysis at city hall to assure staff time is properly allocated to get the job done for the least cost.
 
Yes, there are many things that need to be done. We won’t know if anything gets done until after it happens, but one thing is certain — the election is over and now they must lead.

— 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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