District One City Council candidates answer Sun questions

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District One

Question 5: Do you think the city should upgrade Lifeguard Headquarters? How should Seal Beach pay for it?

Chris DeSanto

Christopher DeSanto

On a general note, our lifeguard headquarters, along with other critical infrastructure including city buildings need to be properly maintained and/or upgraded. The tricky part is, which to prioritize and how to pay for them. As I understand it, the lifeguard headquarters has outlived its useful life, and takes on water when it rains.  I have also been made aware there was a facilities assessment study that at one time put the lifeguard headquarters at or near the top of the list. The City Council would need to reassess and prioritize building infrastructure along with other unfunded capital improvements.

There are two main ways to fund any project – to utilize existing cash, or to raise funds. How much do we draw from our reserves, and do we issue debt to raise funds? Can we free up cashflow from existing expenditures, or through expiring debt services? Can we build up reserves in the short-term to lessen the need for debt?

Having spent my career in corporate finance, the first area to look for paying for new initiatives is to free up existing cashflow. It’s much easier to redirect existing monies than to raise additional revenue. And I’ve never worked in an organization that couldn’t be run more efficiently. Starting with a performance audit, I’d utilize that information to redirect our current cashflows.

Once we’ve identified savings, we can add it into the equation and timeline of cash build up and lessen the need for fundraising – through debt or otherwise. This approach can be applied to all major projects. Now it comes down to which is most urgent, and when. Through collaboration with our public works department and city staff, listening to our residents and other community partners, we can develop a sustainable plan to keep our city infrastructure in good working order.

Joe Kalmick

Joe Kalmick

Our Lifeguard Headquarters, built back in the 1930’s, is in need of at least major renovations or a complete rebuild. Though some work was done back in the 1990’s, the building still does not meet current ADA standards. In addition, headquarters doesn’t have separate locker and bathroom facilities for our female guards.

The equipment garages, which were built directly next to the retaining wall have had mold and mildew problems as a result.

As part of our City’s budget process, in addition to the yearly balancing of our income against expenses, we have a Capital Improvement Project Budget. This how we identify larger projects that are to be funded over a five year planning horizon.

Staff surveyed Lifeguard Headquarters, and to rebuild the building to today’s standards as well as the garages would cost in excess of $9M. Even a scaled back project would not be feasible at this time.

Staff has allocated $60K in the ’21-’22 budget with a medium priority to address some immediate needs for the building. It is also important to remember that the Lifeguard Headquarters and the Jack Haley Police Substation are highly visible landmarks at the base of our pier, and should be kept up.

I am definitely in favor of keeping our Lifeguard Headquarters as a potential CIP item and in the meantime continue to look for other funding sources or grants.

Gregg Barton

Gregg Barton

What are we talking about for Lifeguard Headquarters?  Upgrade, renovate, tear down?

The first thing I would do is get a current list of all city owned facilities and grade their condition and usefulness.  And we do not need another consultant for this!  With our code enforcement, building inspectors and my prior beach city public works experience, we can do this in-house.

If our city is being properly and proactively managed, maintenance and safety upgrades should be an on-going budget item in both the General Fund and the CIP programs.  If they are not being budgeted, why not?  If they are and Lifeguard Headquarters has reached the end of its useful life, how many of our facilities need the same attention?

The estimated $9.5 million price tag for a replacement facility is a figure from 2020. Two years later, with the level of inflation we face every day at the gas station and grocery store, this cost could double. Even renovations could come with a hefty cost.

The facility was built in the 1930s, and changes were made in the ‘60s and ‘70s. As we move forward toward better economic times, planning for improvements isn’t unfeasible. In the meantime, as we juggle expenditures among various budget lines, let’s work to maintain the current facility, though it is cramped and outdated.

We’d all love to see a stellar building that is a source of pride among local residents and its estimated 50 employees. However, for example, just because the phone system is “antique,” it can still handle the caustic marine environment.

When a renovated structure was discussed two years ago, with an added 3,000 square feet, there were still big drawbacks. Even with the added space, it may still not meet Marine Safety Department needs or regulations leading this expensive fix to the next expensive fix.

Two years ago, the thought was that calculating the urgency of the project would be difficult. This statement says it all: “the building is still usable, for now.”  If there are emergency needs within the building, it should be considered maintenance or a safety need and budgeted accordingly.

So, until we know the condition of every facility and the need of every facility, including pump stations, water wells, city hall, library, etc., we should commit no funding without prioritizing.

Question 6: If elected, would you ever seek advice from a past council member? If so, who?

Chris DeSanto

Everything I learned, I learned from you. I am an accumulation of every person I’ve ever met. I certainly didn’t come up with all that I know, on my own. And should I be fortunate enough to be elected, the same will hold true in public office.

There are only two ways I make a decision – through prior experience, or through consultation. And given I’ve never held public office, I have and will continue to, build relationships with current and former city councilmembers from as many locales as possible. There is rarely a need to reinvent a wheel, and the only way to accomplish that is to ask for help, and see how others might have been successful. Or if facing something new, use other perspectives on possible courses of action. In the end though, I would discern what would be in the best interest of our community.

Through life experience, and from managing people professionally, I have learned that most of the time, I don’t have the answer. Most of the time, my team or others around me have the answer. And I am happy to listen to a solution that comes from my fellow neighbor or someone else. I am unafraid to admit when I don’t know something and humble myself before others. Because after doing so, the only people that don’t help, are jerks.

We are all in this together. And there is no way on earth I would try to serve my neighbors alone. By compiling our ideas and letting the best ones float to the surface, we will run our city together with world class ideas, standards and expectations. I will settle for nothing less.

Joe Kalmick

If I am re-elected I think my first priority will be to take the time to reflect on my first term on the Council, and evaluate both my accomplishments and things that I could have done better. At times it was very frustrating that certain ideas and plans seemed to take so long to materialize. It took a while to see the differences between what I perceived as a Seal Beach resident and then as a member of the City Council.

While I have not actively sought advice from past council members, I have attended many council meetings over the years and watched many more on SBTV. I formed opinions about how various Councils handled some very important and controversial issues, and which Council members were most effective in my opinion. In particular I found the work of Victor Grgas, Paul Yost, and Gwen Forsythe to be level headed and analytical, and moreover, always seemed to have the best interests of our city in mind.

Gregg Barton

Of course I would. I would call anyone who had either the knowledge or experience to provide input into decisions I’m facing. And I would welcome a phone call or email from any past elected official who’d like to give me a history of their experience with our current needs and their opinion of what they’d like to see going forward.

I would also check with other cities to see how they have handled the issues we are facing. A quick Internet search can pull up tons of information about issues in other coastal towns in California, and from there it’s easy to reach out and talk with someone with similar budget woes and issues.

As always, I will seek the counsel of the residents first! It is time to put the residents first and then I will not hesitate to ask all who have gone before me.

They too were elected to represent the people and did so at the expense of their own time, with very little payment in return. There is great value in listening more than you speak and in taking time to understand why people hold their opinions.

I don’t just value the thoughts of past Council members. A former mayor or sheriff or police officer is just as likely to add valuable information to the discussion, as a Council member. Each citizen in Seal Beach is affected by the decisions we make each month. And the dollars we spend truly belong to local citizens, not to the Council.

As we move forward, I hope each person who reads this response will take a moment to consider what issues matter most to them and then call or email. This is the truth: if we each complain to our local representatives, politely, and share our needs, we will create the best community possible.

I want to see residents who understand Council decisions and who feel they’ve had the chance to engage members and be involved in the process. This same thought goes for former elected officials and employees of the city.