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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 11:04 am | Fair 58º


Ron Fink: Using Nonprofits to Run Lompoc Parks

The city of Lompoc has a revenue problem. The parks and recreation facilities and programs are suffering because there just isn’t enough money to fund maintenance or any of the improvements needed to make recreation venues more attractive to residents.

The City Council had an opportunity to let voters determine whether they wanted to provide more revenue via a temporary sales tax, but three councilmen (Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega) nixed the idea and wouldn’t let their constituents have a say on the matter.

Other communities have robust team sports tournaments and festivals that bring visitors and their disposable incomes from far away cities to help bolster the General Fund sales tax and hotel tax revenue stream.

But, these cities have well maintained, state-of-the-art recreation facilities.
An infusion of cash and energy is needed to revive the Lompoc park system. But, who can pull it off?

On Sept. 4, the Lompoc City Recreation manager proposed “the formation of and Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation for the purpose of enhancing City of Lompoc owned and operated parks and recreation facilities and programs.”

Executed responsibly, this idea has merit, but considering past experiences, the council should use caution when selecting a nonprofit group so the public they serve can be assured the nonprofit has the capability to deliver what they promise.

One such local foundation already exists, but it has proven to be ineffective and was responsible for the waste of $700,000 of state off-road vehicle tax revenue and many hours of staff time on a project that was a non-starter.

To consider this foundation for this proposal would be a mistake.

The saga of the Lompoc Motorsports Project, under the auspices of the Lompoc Valley Park, Recreation and Pool Foundation, Inc. (LVPRPF) reads like the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First” skit.

There were so many missteps, twists and turns, they never could figure out who was on first, what was on second or who was on third.

The LVPRPF never could make it to home plate because they kept hitting foul balls and, to make matters worse, the foundation was consistently late in providing key information such as a preliminary design to get the environmental review process started.

To be fair, some of the LVPRPF projects were successful such as Barkin’ Park, a doggy playground; a veteran’s memorial; and a bike skills park. These projects were only successful because the team leaders made a long-term commitment to their ideas.

Other more successful nonprofits such as the YMCA and YWCA exist and have effectively and efficiently operated recreation programs for decades.

A successful nonprofit model might be one that has a board board ofdDirectors that consists of one member from all the organized festival/sports groups that use park and recreation facilities. Voting members would include all youth/adult sports program and festival committee chairpersons.

The chairperson would be selected by the board; it must have an attorney, a CPA, and most importantly, a grant-writing specialist.

Such a nonprofit should be required to present a draft Memorandum of Understanding that includes the group’s charter, a list of voting board members, and a business plan explaining how they intend to enhance “City of Lompoc owned and operated parks and recreation facilities and programs.”

The council would then have to approve the MOU and attachments prior to allowing the plan to go forward.

After LVPRPF president John Linn made a pitch to the council that his organization could offer these services, Councilman Dirk Starbuck moved that they be selected; the remainder of the council sat silent and the motion died for a lack of a second.

This surprised a number of council watchers. Typically, Mosby, Starbuck and Vega are on the same page with almost anything Linn suggests. Or, maybe two of them had a sudden attack of conscience and realized the LVPRPF was unsuited for the task.

So, now we will have to wait and see who, if anyone, steps up to the plate to take on the monumental task of overhauling and managing the rundown park system in Lompoc.

— 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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