San Luis Obispo County supervisors Tuesday unanimously added four Nipomo park construction projects to a five-year plan for capital improvements following an impassioned speech by Supervisor Lynn Compton, during which she railed that the South County community had paid into public facilities fees and not seen its fair share of expenditures.
“South County is really underrepresented,” Compton told her colleagues on the county Board of Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday. “I’m asking for fairness and an amount generated by our area goes to our area.”
She proposed adding and giving priority to construction of Jim O. Miller Memorial Park, Jack Ready Imagination Park, an expansion of Nipomo Community Park, and new facilities at the historical Dana Adobe. All five supervisors voted to approve her additions, then voted to adopt the Five Year Infrastructure and Facilities Capital Improvement Plan.
Adding the parks to the list, however, does not mean that funds were allocated.
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South County is really underrepresented.
Supervisor Lynn Compton
The plan identifies facilities and infrastructure improvements that are planned to be implemented during the next five fiscal years beginning in 2017-18. Before the four parks were added to the list, there were 103 projects valued at $276.2 million across the county. Projects identified include: construction of a women’s jail, a new airport terminal building, replacement of the animal services building, a new emergency dispatch center and improvements to the Arroyo Grande Channel Waterway.
Prior to the board discussion, Nipomo attorney Jesse Hill reminded the supervisors during public comments that he had sued the county a decade ago because fees levied on new developments for parks and recreational facilities in Nipomo were spent elsewhere in the county. He suggested Tuesday that litigation could arise again.
Compton said the area has had “the burden of large development projects and we don’t seem to be getting the services.” She later referred to the Trilogy development.
She said she asked for maps that demonstrate where development fees were accrued and where they were spent, and she found that over 10 years, South County had generated $10.8 million in fees and that $2 million had been spent.
Compton said she understood that some revenue from development fees should be spread throughout the county, such as when a small community needs a fire station. But a park across the county does not serve the children in Nipomo, she said.
The vote did not come without heated debate.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson said the reason there aren’t more projects in Nipomo is that Compton’s predecessor on the board didn’t bring parks forward on the list of projects. Undeveloped projects should not leap in front of developed plans, he said.
“I’m not opposed to bringing park projects, but none (of the four named by Compton) have the level of development to put them in a five-year plan,” Gibson said.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold jumped to Compton’s defense and said, “I understand her frustration. No one has given her a path, and she’s trying to make a path.”
Compton said that if the response to her concern is to wait another 20 years and put the projects at the bottom of the list, “I’ll go ballistic.”
I understand her frustration. No one has given her a path, and she’s trying to make a path.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold, on Supervisor Lynn Compton’s requests for the capital improvement plan
Supervisor Adam Hill said it’s not smart policy to just spend money narrowly in the community in which it is generated.
“If a park is ready, it should go on (the list),” Hill said. “I don’t agree with, ‘everything on my list should go forward because I think we’ve been cheated.’ ”
Gibson and Compton engaged in cross talk after Gibson questioned “the attitude that you can wave your hand and get on the list.”
“It’s going to take longer than you would like because we are limited by funds,” he said.
“I understand that,” she said. She said a skate park proposed for Nipomo Community Park would cost $1.5 million and “we have a plan drawn and everything.”
“Vote against me if you want to, I don’t care,” she said.
Earlier in the day, during a mid-year budget process review, Arnold won approval of a motion for which she’s fought for years.
Supervisors voted 3-2 to add road maintenance to the board’s 2017-18 budget priorities, which are used by county administrators to prioritize spending increases by each department. The other priorities are: provide services required by state and federal law; meet debt requirements, such as paying off financing for capital projects; and fund public safety.
Arnold pitched that roads are a public safety concern.
I’m not going to put potholes above poor people.
Supervisor Adam Hill
Hill opposed the motion because, “it’s an unwise policy. To balance the budget we need to have flexibility.”
He said if they were to add priorities, supervisors should consider that 75 percent of homeless people in the county are unsheltered, or that inmates in County Jail could benefit from a drug detox center, or that climate change adaptation should be a priority, given the impacts of storms. He said he trusts staff to put forward the needs they identify as priorities.
“I’m not going to put potholes above poor people,” Hill said.
“Hill is generous when he calls this bad policy. This is atrocious public policy,” Gibson said, adding that the supervisors don’t yet know what the budget increase requests will be for 2017-18.
“We don’t know what (the requests) are, but the number one complaint I hear is roads,” Compton said.
Compton voted against adding road maintenance to the priorities last November. On Tuesday, she seconded the motion. Supervisor John Peschong was the third “yes.”