Gregory introduces management team, talks land trade with Mono County Supes
In last week’s print issue of The Sheet, we ran a letter from Congressman Paul Cook to the Committee for a Viable June Mountain (click here to read letter). In the letter, Cook stated that he would not move forward with H.R. 1241 until the Committee’s concerns about June Mountain Ski Area had been addressed. The Committee had been reaching out to Cook ever since he introduced the bill, which facilitates the land exchange on Mammoth Mountain, earlier this year.
The Committee’s concerns revolve around the re-opening of June Mountain and seeing the items promised to the community of June Lake by Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory, materialize.
This week, at the regular meeting of the Mono County Board of Supervisors, the Board, as well as a packed room of members of the public, which included Gregory and his new leadership team for MMSA, reviewed a letter compiled by Supervisor Tim Alpers. The letter was to be sent by the Board of Supervisors to Mono County Congressional Delegation in Washington, DC. With approval of the letter, the Board would support not only the land trade, but also the re-opening and improvements at June Mountain Ski Area in an effort to enhance and grow a winter recreation corridor in the Eastern Sierra.
Prior to delving into the letter and land trade discussion, Gregory announced his new, six-member leadership team to the crowded room. Gregory had announced at the June 5 Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting that someone else would be running Mammoth Mountain in the next few weeks. He was referring to the leadership team.
With the departure of MMSA Senior Vice President of Real Estate Jim Smith this week (click here for story), however, the team really shrank to five, but Gregory threw himself into the mix to make it six when he presented the team to the Board. Technically, if Smith had stayed, the team would have been seven including Gregory.
CEO – Rusty Gregory
COO – Greg Dallas
Chief Administrative Officer – Ron Cohen
Chief Marketing Officer – Erik Forsell
Chief Finance Officer – Mark Clausen
Chief Operating Officer of Hospitality – To be determined
Following the introductions, Dallas, who will also serve as COO of June Mountain, came to the podium and spoke about the benefits of having one point person operating both mountains.
“We’ll be able to drive revenue and create efficiencies,” Dallas said. “We’ll have a synergy we didn’t have before.”
In addition to the new team at MMSA, Dallas announced the new team for June Mountain. Carl Williams will continue to serve as General Manager. Current Ski and Snowboard School Brand Director for MMSA, Julie Brown, will shift gears and become the General Manager of Guest Experience for June. Abigail Ross will remain as the Sales and Marketing Manager, and Neil Sogard, currently a member of the Marketing team at MMSA will fill out the Marketing Department at June.
“We have the flexibility to place resources we couldn’t before,” Dallas said. “And we’ve placed some of our top resources at June.”
“We are heading in the right direction with June Mountain,” added Gregory. “We’re back on track. I’m sorry we closed it down, but I’m still here and you can still reach out and touch me personally, as many of you have.”
The discussion then turned back to the MMSA land trade and the letter at hand.
Gregory has been against linking what’s happening at June Mountain with the MMSA land trade since the Committee for a Viable June Mountain first made the connection last year, and he held that stance on Tuesday.
“It’s important that government doesn’t leverage and hold hostage one good thing for the community for another,” Gregory told the Board. “It’s dangerous to have one leveraged against the other.”
He explained the benefit of the land trade to the County, which Supervisor Alpers had explained at the last June Lake CAC meeting on June 4. By remodeling Main Lodge to the tune of what Gregory estimated to be about $600 million, Mono County would receive a large portion of the property tax that would be assessed. According to Alpers at the June 4 CAC meeting, of the 1% in property taxes that would come off that, 40% would go to Mono County. The 40% of the 1% of property taxes that the County keeps in such instances accounts for 80% of what it costs to run the County, Alpers had said. “We’re totally dependent on the success of Mammoth Lakes,” he added.
On Tuesday Alpers added that with the crafting of the letter he had done the best he could to pull everything together to a higher level.
“We need to take the recreation corridor idea to a higher level,” Alpers said. “We need to take what we have and make it better. We need to grow our way out of it [the down economy].”
“Let’s find our commonality, not our differences,” Gregory urged. “We don’t have the time or the resources to fight.”
The one critique he had for the Board’s draft letter was that it was too long. He asked that the Board shortened the letter to length of the last letter it had sent in 2012.
“Just say you support the land trade,” Gregory said. “Congress is going to be timid now because of the controversy.”
Other members of the audience then spoke on the matter. Mono Lake Committee Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin gave a brief history of the Cunningham Parcel, one of the most prominent parcels in the land trade, but it was comments from local business owner Tom Cage and outgoing Mammoth Mayor Matthew Lehman that caught the Board’s attention and raised its defenses.
After stating that he was in favor of enhancing the corridor concept, Cage added, “The Board traveled down a slippery slope. It held hostage a land trade for the sake of a business.”
Lehman, reading from a letter composed by his fellow Councilman, Michael Raimondo who could not attend the meeting, read, “As a Councilman, I am very concerned that the Mono County Supervisors have legitimized the very incorrect impression that there is a connection between the closure and now reopening and future investment in June Mountain and the Main Lodge Land Trade including the redevelopment of the Mammoth Mountain Inn. In my opinion, there is absolutely no connection between these two very important matters.”
“The Board isn’t holding up anything,” said Supervisor Larry Johnston. “You’re painting a picture that we hadn’t done much, that we hadn’t gotten off our keisters as someone once said [referring to a comment made by Gregory last year], but that’s wrong.”
“The perception is that there is a ball being tossed back and forth,” Cage said.
“You’re wrong,” Johnston said again. “The letter [about halting H.R. 1241] was from a Congressman, not us.”
Supervisor Fred Stump also spoke in defense of the Board. “Citizens simply spoke out, which they are allowed to do. The Board never took a stance against the land trade. There has been no letter before today trying to change the County’s support [which was given in the 2012 letter]. The June Lake citizens have every right to speak.”
He pointed out that the letter before everyone on Tuesday did support the land trade as one of its bullet points.
“It does just what you’re asking,” he said to Lehman. Stump added that his district supported the land trade because of the jobs the Main Lodge redevelopment would bring.
The Board then opened comment up to June Lake community members, pointing out that the conversation was getting a bit “stacked.”
Alice Suszynski, a member of the Committee for a Viable June Mountain came to the podium.
“Yeah, it was feeling a little stacked,” Suszynski said. “We don’t know who leaked the letter to The Sheet, but Cook is making a connection [between June Mountain and the MMSA land trade].”
She added that the Committee is not against the land trade.
“We just get so little [at June Mountain],” Suszynski said. “When the land trade became prominent we got [the promise of] snowmaking, marketing and a chairlift. Why would we prematurely endorse something when we haven’t seen anything? We’re asking the Board to just wait to see if the promises are real. Wait six months, it’s not an emergency.”
Suszynski added that if the promises for June Mountain truly did materialize, the Committee would go straight to Washington, DC and lobby in favor of the land trade, but again urged the Board to hold off in its support for now.
“You won’t have the control you have now if you endorse it,” she said. “Don’t throw that card away. Just wait six months, nothing’s going to happen [with the land trade] in that time anyway.”
Forest Service District Ranger for the Mammoth and Mono Lake Districts, Jon Regelbrugge spoke briefly on behalf of the Forest Service and its role in the land trade. While he expressed that he was not here to urge the Board to do anything one way or another, he did point out that the Forest Service had determined that the land exchange was in the public’s best interest.
Supervisor Johnston then asked Gregory what the timeframe of the land trade would look like, in follow up to Suszynski’s comments.
“I’ve been involved in three land trades and this is quite a setback,” Gregory said of the June Mountain connection and controversy. “It could be expeditious, it depends on how long we argue over entitlements. The fastest would be six to nine months. The first phase of building would take 18 months once there’s shovels in the ground.”
Johnston estimated being five years out and Gregory agreed.
“The importance of this is these things take forever, particularly the political process,” Gregory said. “The connection to June Mountain has caught the politicians’ attention and we’ve lost momentum. It’s the community’s right [to speak up] but it’s not helpful.”
The Board ultimately decided it would still send its letter, but rather than shortening it as Gregory and several others in the audience had suggested, the Board added to the letter in a few areas, including wording from Johnston at the end of the paragraph supporting the land trade, to “consider a land trade at the base of June Mountain,” as well.
The amended letter as well as a cover letter composed by Mono County CAO Jim Leddy expressing the Board’s support of the land trade will come back before the Board for final review as a consent agenda item at its July 2 meeting before being sent off.