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In this May 12, 2016, file photo, John Linn, right, talks about the proposed Motorsports Park as Will Schuyler, left, and Carl Creel listen during a special Lompoc City Council meeting. It was revealed Tuesday that the project will miss out on about $700,000 of a nearly $1 million state grant.

Len Wood, Staff

Although the city of Lompoc secured a nearly $1 million state grant three years ago to help fund the proposed Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park project, city staff revealed this week that a significant portion of those grant funds will go unused.

Near the start of Tuesday night’s Lompoc City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Teresa Gallavan said that the California State Parks Department had informed the city that it would not authorize any extensions for grant funds to be used beyond Dec. 31.

According to a city spokesperson, the city has received $315,625 from the state grant and organizing committee and has reported expenditures of $286,404 for the project. The city is currently finalizing accounting before submitting its next reimbursement request to the state. It was unclear Wednesday exactly how much had already been paid out to the city from the state grant. 

It was also unclear Wednesday if the city could be on the hook to repay any of the funding it has received from the grant, but the project’s organizers suggested that was unlikely.

The total amount of the grant awarded was $998,107. The roughly $300,000 that has or will be utilized will all go to environmental work related to the project, which hasn't undergone any actual construction. That means that the project will almost certainly miss out on more than $600,000 that would have gone toward construction costs.

Despite that loss of grant funds, some members of the project’s organizing committee, which is operating under the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation & Pool Foundation (LVPRPF), remain confident that the park will still one day become a reality.

“The project is going to continue to try to move forward, we just won’t have that grant funding,” Carl Creel, the chairman of the project committee, said Wednesday.

He said the remaining grant funds would have been used on the off-road portion of the project, which he estimated wouldn’t be too difficult to build without the grant.

“We already have a number of people who have suggested they would help us with that, heavy equipment operators and so on,” he said.

Former Lompoc Mayor John Linn, who is head of the LVPRPF and has primarily been the voice of the project over the past few years, said that organizers knew for the past several months, during which the project and its environmental processes were beset by delays, that the construction portion of the grant funding likely would be unavailable.

That outcome was sealed, he said, when the City Council failed to certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, at its Nov. 1 meeting. The EIR was ultimately certified by the council Dec. 6.

“This was nothing new for us,” he said.

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Although all the grant funding won’t be utilized, Linn said he was thankful for what was able to be used and expressed optimism about the project’s ongoing viability.

“Every other thing in Lompoc like that has been built with local people and local money,” he said. “We got the environmental work done and that was $300,000 that would have been pretty hard to raise. It’s not too tough to raise money to build something, but it’s kinda tough to raise money to think about building something.”

The project, which is being planned for a 35-acre site just north of the Lompoc Airport, is set to include two primary park areas: one consisting of several off-road vehicle motocross tracks and the second featuring an International Hot Rod Association (IHRA)-sanctioned eighth-mile drag strip.

Linn said that committee members will regroup after the holidays and decide on how to proceed.

“The environmental work is pretty well done, and we’ve got a certified environmental document, so we’ll see what our next steps are,” he said. “We’re at this point now, and (the committee has) got to decide what they want to do going forward.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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