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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 9:02 am | Fair 41º


Ron Fink: Lompoc Council Should Listen to Oldest, Most-Experienced Politician on Dais

The city of Lompoc is like many other small to moderate-sized cities across America. The adult population consists of “old timers” and “new folks” who have come to live here as the city grew.  

Once a small town whose primary source of income was agriculture, an army base and a diatomaceous earth mine on the south end of town, it has now grown into a community comprised of agricultural, aerospace, small manufacturing, government employees, service industry and a growing segment of retired families.

The political landscape is dominated by the old-time family names that have lived here for decades; they remember a small town and a time when deals were made at social clubs, bars and in smoky back rooms.

But the city has evolved; the new folks see a future for our city that includes some significant growth; even the old timers seem to agree and when the council approved both the 1997 and 2030 General Plan’s their vision was for growth to the north and west of the current city boundaries.

Large housing tracts and a substantial industrial park are all part of this planned growth.

This growth is demonstrated by all of the new construction that has occurred over the last few decades north of North Avenue. This area was once farm fields and the airport was once “way out of town.” Now it’s integrated into the business areas along Central Avenue.

The need to move Fire Station 2 from its current location has existed from the day a short-sighted City Council approved construction of an undersized “temporary” station in 1986.

From the day it was opened, fire officials and ironically the council agreed that it needed to be much larger and located in a more centralized location within its new service area.

Even though the council knew that improvements were needed, they sat on their hands and did nothing after several studies that they had requested clearly showed that positive action was needed soon or the community would be placed at an increased risk.

To its credit the current council has both identified the need approved, a Fire Department Master Plan that included construction of a new station and approved funding for the design of a new station – but when the staff presented their proposal last December, three council members balked — each of whom were from families who had been early arrivals in Lompoc and had strong ties to the old timers.

Their main concern was the cost; “it would be the most expensive and largest fire station in the county” was the complaint.

But, a closer analysis of fire stations, old and new, in the county tells a much different story.

First the size; surprise – it isn’t the largest. The main fire station in the city of Santa Barbara is 5,000 square feet larger than the proposed station and it is too small to serve the community.

Next is cost; the new station for the city of Goleta is proposed to be 11,000 square feet at a cost of about $400 a square foot. This station will be an empty building the day the ribbon is cut – no furniture, communications or any of the other things a fire station needs to function.

The station in Lompoc is proposed to be 23,373 square feet and is estimated to cost about $350 a square foot.

The additional funding that is being requested is for all of those things that are essential to make the facility a functioning tool for the fire department and the community – no frills, just the essentials.

So when you compare the cost per square foot of two newly proposed stations, you can see that the station in Lompoc is substantially cheaper than the one in Goleta.

Earlier I mentioned that three longtime community members, the old timers, had nixed the current proposal. There is one other old timer, much older and wiser that the other three, who has been part of this discussion for several years. He has served on the council many times during the 30 years this issue has festered.

But he has had enough and fully supports the current project and admonished the sons of other old timers, saying that “it’s time to stop kicking the can down the road” and build the station that’s needed.

Council member Dwayne Holmdahl is the oldest and most experienced politician on the dais – the youngsters should listen to his advice on this matter.

— 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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