Old Town Lompoc has finally caught up with the times — or, rather, the time.
Interim City Manager Teresa Gallavan announced this past week that the nearly 13-foot-tall community clock located in the South H Street median at the Ocean Avenue intersection was back up and running. Gallavan’s announcement came several months after the clock began to noticeably slow down, which ultimately led city officials to cover it with a tarp late last year until it could be fixed.
The repair was completed Jan. 11 by a service technician from Verdin, the company that manufactured the clock.
The city had received several calls from residents concerned about the clock over the past few months, according to some city administrators. That interest was seemingly validated at Tuesday night’s Lompoc City Council meeting when much of the audience applauded after Gallavan announced that the clock was ticking again on time.
“I’m glad we could do something good there and get this accomplished,” Rich Gracyk, the city’s wireless service administrator, said of the clock. “This was one of those things where it was visible enough that we had to get something done.”
Although the clock can appear to be historic, it was actually built this decade and gifted to the city from the Lompoc Rotary Club in 2011. The clock had a “catalog price” of about $18,000, according to a 2011 city staff report on the donation, and came with a three-year warranty.
The clock had apparently been functioning fine until mid-2017, when it was discovered that the clock was slowly losing time. Then-City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, who left his position in Lompoc on Jan. 5, publicly revealed the issue during the Dec. 5 Lompoc City Council meeting.
“It started to run a little bit slow, so we were sending someone out to reset the time once a month,” Wiemiller said at that meeting. “It got to where it was running even slower than that, and it got to a point where we were sending out individuals to reset it once a day. Now, we’re at a point where the clock won’t reset.”
Gracyk noted that setting the clock daily was “not really a tenable situation” and said that getting the clock fixed became a priority.
“We all agreed that we can’t have the clock out there if it’s not working,” he said.
The big fix
It took some time to set up the appointment for the Verdin repair technician, Gracyk said, in part because the Lompoc Rotary Club, and not the city, was still listed with the company as the clock’s owner. After working through those issues, Gracyk began having phone conversations with the service tech.
The Verdin tech was quickly able to locate and fix the problem — a malfunctioning timekeeping piece in the head of the clock that controls the hands. The cost for the service visit was about $600, plus another $600 for replacement of the part, bringing the city’s total bill for the repair to about $1,200, according to Gracyk.
“We’ve been keeping an eye on it ever since,” he said. “We think (the repair tech) did a good job on it, and we are just trying to move forward on this, as far as getting a maintenance contract for it so that hopefully it doesn’t fall into this sort of state (again) where it’s like all of a sudden we have to scramble to try to create some kind of a fix for it.”
That continued maintenance will be key, Gracyk said.
“This is a device with moving parts and electronics,” he said. “At some point, it will require some form of maintenance or upkeep. It can’t just sit there unattended.
“It’s kinda like your car,” he added. “You can’t just keep driving it. Eventually, it will let you down.”
In the 2011 city staff report that outlined the donation of the clock, the terms of the donation stipulated that the city would be responsible for the clock’s maintenance and the electric energy required to operate the clock over its expected lifespan, which was predicted to be between 15 and 20 years. That electric energy was estimated to be about the same as running a street lamp.
The city did give itself an out, though, by also stipulating that the city would be relieved of its obligations to the clock if the timepiece was destroyed or damaged beyond repair, at no responsibility of the city.
Although the clock was a gift, the city spent about $20,000 on the design and installation of the foundation, electrical connections and brass “City of Lompoc” insets on the clock.
It was anticipated that the clock would need “minor maintenance” at four- to five-year intervals, according to the 2011 staff report.
Gracyk said he was confident that this most recent issue with the clock has spurred the city to develop and maintain a maintenance plan — one with updated cost estimates — for the future.
“That’s the point of what we are trying to accomplish by this whole exercise: to at least have some hard numbers that we can move forward on taking care of this device and making sure it’s doing what it’s supposed to do,” he said.