Editorial: Pricey dune buggy a waste of fees

We’re towing a broken-down, smog-belching brickbat to the Oceano Dunes and parking it right next to that fancy-schmancy, $75,000, rarely used sand rail dune buggy that was supposed to be such an indispensable piece of equipment.

In case you missed the tale of the beach buggy boondoggle, here’s the abridged version: State Parks purchased the vehicle in 2003 — after General Services had initially denied the request, in part because it questioned the vehicle’s reliability. And sure enough, the buggy wound up in the shop for a string of repairs that cost more than $5,000.

Which brings us to a question: Did this not come with a warranty?

Yet questionable reliability’s not the only issue. Turns out, this vehicle that was so badly needed hasn’t been used all that much. After a couple of years, it had fewer than 2,000 miles on the odometer.

But not to worry, taxpayer.

Phil Jenkins, State Parks recreational division chief, pointed out that general tax revenues didn’t fund the purchase. The machine was paid for through fees paid by off-roaders and other park users.

Phew! Now that’s a relief. At least only some taxpayers saw their money wasted.

Let’s not shirk air quality study

Speaking of off-roaders, a large contingent showed up at the South County Regional Center Wednesday night to learn more about the results of an air monitoring study. The study found that off-roading is the primary cause of high particulate counts — aka air pollution — on the Nipomo Mesa.

So, what was the crowd’s primary concern?

Well, not the health of residents of the Mesa.

Nope. The off-roaders were more worried about whether they’ll still be allowed to tear around on their quads — and too busy attacking the study to express much sympathy for Mesa residents forced to eat their dust.

As we’ve said many times, we aren’t calling for a ban on off-roading at the dunes. But we do believe the air study points to the need for a follow-up investigation to find out whether the health of Mesa residents has been harmed by exposure to sand particles. And if there are remedial measures that can bring the pollution down to more acceptable levels, county and state agencies should implement them as soon as possible — and earn a beach grass bouquet in the process.

Volunteer time off means big savings

SLO County employees who took advantage of a voluntary time off program saved taxpayers nearly $400,000 between July 1 and the end of February. That’s not a huge amount when you consider that the county faces a $19 million shortfall, but it could wind up saving at least a few jobs. We toss the county a frugal bouquet for promoting a painless way to save some bucks.

Much ado about not much

County supervisors didn’t listen to naysaying neighbors in Cambria who objected to minor improvements at a dirt parking area near Harmony Headlands State Park. Good for the supes. All that fuss over installing some parking bumpers? Ridiculous.

The neighbors get a take-a-hike brickbat, and the supes earn a bumper crop bouquet.