What would the city of Lompoc do if they were suddenly the beneficiary of a $13 million one-time revenue windfall?

Well, they just might start making their wish list, because it appears that the $1.9 trillion “America Rescue Plan Act,” of which well over half is totally unrelated to its intended purpose of assisting with Covid-19-related issues, will deliver cash to city government.

How do we know this? Well, during the March 16 City Council meeting, the city manager said that the stimulus package, which was just signed by President Joe Biden, would bring $13 million in one-time funding to Lompoc in two phases spaced a year apart.

So, let’s see, what does the city need that would benefit from a one-time infusion of cash? 

We’ll start with public safety; both police and fire departments need replacements for their aged rolling stock; firefighters report that their first-line equipment often returns from the maintenance shop only to break down within a few hours – sometimes while on an emergency response.

The Police Department has the same problem.

The Fire Department could use a second new pumper (the council recently approved the purchase of one new pumper) and a new aerial ladder truck – cost would be around $2 million.

Any equipment that exceeds the engineering design life or fails any of the annual national performance test requirements needs to be replaced.

Fire station 1 was last renovated in the mid 1970s, and potentially may have some serious structural/mechanical and electrical issues; an additional quarter million may be needed to conduct a deep dive by a qualified engineering firm to evaluate the facility and provide recommended solutions. 

Firefighters stationed there may be subject to serious injury in an earthquake and respiratory illness or lung cancer because of having no diesel exhaust smoke removal system. This system has been a requirement for many years; however, this critical system was never installed at either station 1 or 2.

Such a study could provide justification for a future federal infrastructure grant.

Fire station 2 needs to be relocated to serve any future expansion of the City to the west or north.

The Police Department could use a half million or more to replace patrol units. It needs a body camera system; the hardware is estimated to cost nearly $600,000.

In addition, the council would have to authorize an additional long-term commitment to a staff increase of two sworn officers and two technicians to manage the system.

The Police Department/Fire Department communication center and all the equipment associated with its operation need a serious upgrade.

In addition, a functional emergency operations center with facility upgrades to house it has been needed for decades to manage major police, fire, and utility emergencies. The cost could easily reach well over $2 million considering the facility and vehicle communication system changes that would be needed.

Both the Police Department and the Fire Department would reduce the time necessary to get to life-threatening emergencies if a traffic signal preemption system were to be installed; the cost could exceed $500,000.

So, that is about half the new revenue to improve public safety; my next priority would be to begin the renovation of Ryon Park.

This park generates sales and bed tax revenue for the city during the several festivals that are normally held there each year. It would provide a good return on investment to totally renovate this venue to better serve the community.

All these wishes assume that there are no strings attached to how the America Rescue Plan Act funds would be used. Frequently it’s best to read between the lines carefully to make sure that any proposed uses meet federal guidelines.

According to an analysis of the act by the legal firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, “funding government services that have been curtailed as a result of decrease in tax revenue caused by the pandemic” is an extremely broad description of how the new funds can be spent.

We will have to wait and see what our staff and City Council decide to do.

I haven’t seen a government operation yet that couldn’t spend money.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.