Friday, November 16 , 2018, 2:31 am | Fair 48º


Ron Fink: Has the Fourth Attempt to Build a Lompoc Space Center been Grounded?

There have been four separate attempts in the last 25 years to create some sort of space museum in and around Lompoc. So far there have been three failed attempts and it looks like a fourth is looming.

The first attempt was in the Space Shuttle era when a small group of local astronomers tried to establish a small display of space craft artifacts near a star gazing telescope that was once in Ken Adam Park on the north edge of town. 

They were unable to get a good start on the project, and with the town moving north, the ambient light from all those new buildings made their star gazing difficult and the project was abandoned.

The second and much more ambitious project was planned for a spot on Vandenberg Air Force Base in what was once a trailer park for military personnel alongside Highway 1. 

It too failed after $19 million in grants was spent over a 10 year period.

The next two attempts were championed by former mayor John Linn who was long on ideas and short on picking folks who could deliver.

In 2013 Linn enlisted a slick nonprofit group that promised thousands of jobs and duped many into believing their power point predictions, but they didn’t have the right stuff and the effort failed.

Then Linn stood tall for another person making big promises — could Eva Blaisdell succeed where others have failed? 

Hook, line and sinker, the former mayor swallowed her pitch.

In February 2015 Noozhawk reported that “Despite what staff called a significantly flawed proposal lacking details about the team proposing to develop a space center in Lompoc, the City Council agreed Tuesday night (Feb. 3) to move toward entering into exclusive negotiations with the group led by a woman from Poland (Blaisdell)”.

The Noozhawk report continues that Teresa Gallavan, City of Lompoc’s economic development director and assistant city manager, cited more than a dozen ways the request for qualifications was incomplete or missing the “evidence of ability,” requested as part of the process to ensure the project succeeds.

An update in May clearly indicated that “staff were awaiting evidence of registration to do business in California, California Space Center formation documentation including by-laws, and proof signing authority.” 

In other words Blaisdell’s Limited Liability Company didn’t have authority to do business in California yet. This one issue was resolved with the Secretary of State the day after the council meeting.

But none of this seemed to worry Linn — in fact he narrated a slick video that was specially prepared for the May 19 council meeting, and in it many claims are made — for example Blaisdell predicts that “3,000 jobs will be created by her project”.

Now that’s a lot of jobs, but with no known coalition of reputable companies or businesses currently interested in her project, it is doubtful that these claims can be realized.

But by now Linn was no longer mayor and a new team had taken.  Now the Council didn’t seem willing to allow the process to continue until Blaisdell could prove that she had the authority to sign for the three unknown "managing members" of the LLC registered in Delaware. 

A motion to enter into a 12 month Exclusive Negotiating Agreement passed 5-0, but direction was given to validate her claims.

There were a lot of short term milestones that needed to be met. 

“We put a lot of confidence in you,” Mayor Bob Lingl said after the vote. “Please don’t let us down.  I know you won’t.  Just as a reminder, there are some hard deadlines in here.  We’re going to hold you to them, OK?” 

But, let them down she did.

Following a closed session discussion Sept. 15 of Blaisdell’s latest submittals, “The city of Lompoc has sent the developer of the ambitious California Space Center project a letter of default after she failed to submit 14 items of information by the 30- and 60-day deadlines.”

The report continues “Items missing include letters of reference for Blaisdell, tangible evidence the group has sufficient funds for the project to move from the negotiating step to the development agreement, names and qualifications for those who make up the development team and more.”

So, not much has changed since Feb. 3.

Blaisdell claimed she was “totally surprised” by the council action and claimed that no one had communicated with her — but considering that she participated in negotiating the agreement, she signed it and was in attendance May 19, how could she not understand that the City wanted to be sure she could perform and execute the project?

So, once again another huckster rode in to town claiming that they could save Lompoc with a huge job producing Space Center, and all it turns out to be is smoke and mirrors. 

It looks like the fourth attempt to build a space center in Lompoc is fizzling like all the rest.

— 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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