Oceanside Harbor Committee questions capital improvement budget

Oceanside Harbor Committee questions capital improvement budget

OCEANSIDE—Members of the Oceanside Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee expressed concern over a proposed $1 million presentation of capital improvement spending during an April 24 meeting.

A memorandum issued by city consultant Peter Weiss, Oceanside’s former city manager, for the 2014-2015 fiscal year outlined anticipated alterations to the harbor. The presentation caused a stir among committee members, as a request from Harbor Patrol called for an aging vessel to be replaced with a 29-foot patrol boat. The hull would cost $500,000.

Weiss said two of the four boats in the harbor are about 30 years old. However, the vessels, which Weiss said should be upgraded every 20 years, were not previously presented in a 20-year Capital Improvement Program.

In the note, Weiss states “One boat is in need of replacement in fiscal year 2014-2015 and another in fiscal year 2015-2016. Historically, none of the harbor vehicles had been included in the city’s replacement program. The Harbor Fund was used to pay for any vehicles in need of replacement.”

According to Weiss, the Harbor Fund, a single account within the financial system, is allocated for CIP projects and is for the use of any unallocated reserves within the harbor. The fund currently has a balance of approximately $3.5 million.

The proposal, though, didn’t sit well with both committee members and Oceanside residents. Dave Albert, a broker in Oceanside, said he is dissatisfied with the city’s association with Weiss and the overall scope of the CIP.

“[Weiss] didn’t do the job well in the first place, so here he comes back again,” he said. “I don’t approve of that…hopefully the committee’s recommendation to the City Council is that this type of accounting doesn’t continue.”

Albert said the program 20 years ago was sufficient and afforded the city plenty of years to devote to the upgrades.

“Just having briefed this memorandum, there’s a lot of backpedaling all of a sudden,” Albert said. “Why did we waste so much time and money on this previous 20-year program?”

Current city manager Steve Jepsen said the city’s intention is to ensure there are no surprises in this process.

“It may be upsetting to hear about some of this stuff, but sooner or later you’re going to hear it,” he said. “We’d rather you hear about it sooner.”

Committee member Jim Jenkins expressed concern over accountability in relation to the new boat request. He said he obtained paper work from 2012, which budgeted only $80,000 for vessel service repair and maintenance for 2014-2015.

“All of sudden, we have to replace the vessel with a half a million dollar boat when we knew back in 2004 that they were good for only 20 years,” Jenkins said. “That’s a pretty big ticket item that we missed.”

Committee member Les George said he wanted to know why there wasn’t any discussion from the department previously regarding this issue.

“I’ve taken a look at these boats,” George said. “They do look tired. They do need to be replaced. But you need a plan…it’s not acceptable for us to be the person to go to when the ball is dropped.”

Of the four boats in operation by Harbor Patrol, three are used strictly as patrol boats, which are implemented in firefighting, search and rescue and EMS procedures. A fourth boat, used for Department of Homeland Security operations, was acquired through federal grants in 2012.

Weiss, who was quick to defend the city’s stance for most of the meeting, conceded to missing the need for vessel improvement while city manager.

“Part of my responsibility is letting you know versus showing up one day and saying we spent the money,” Weiss said. “I can’t tell you why 20 years ago money wasn’t set aside. I don’t know.”

Harbor Patrol is seeking grants to fund the boat purchase.

“The boats go down for engine replacement every two to three years,” Oceanside officer Jon Hoover explained “When one of those boats go down long term, that boat could be out of the water for 4 to 6 weeks.”

Committee member Liz Rhea questioned the need for the four vessels.

“Why can’t we use the safe boat, get rid of the one in worse condition, use the funds for that with grants and buy another boat to replace that,” she asked.

Other key upgrades included in the list are $150,000 worth of lighting improvements to convert harbor parking lot and street lights with low-energy LED lights, as well as renovations to Service Building 2.

Security upgrades costing about $200,000 are also being requested for all harbor access gates. These upgrades involve access to harbor docks gates, restroom and laundry rooms—all which would be converted from key to card access.

Committee Chairman Kevin Bryne asked Harbor Patrol to return with report outlining the skill set operation, staffing, training, and assets of the patrol vessels. They requested further information from Weiss as well, which will be provided during a special meeting to be held May 15.

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