The Commission recommended allocating $640,791 to projects that include Whitmore Track & Field equipment, Mammoth Roller Rink operations, Whitmore Pool technology enhancements, Trails End Park completion, and a Parks Master Planning study.
The Commission also recommended setting aside the remaining $426,344 in a capital reserve account for future capital investment.
The most controversial project up for Measure R funding was tennis court rehab. The Recreation Commission recommended awarding $14,000 over two years to repair the public tennis court, which develops cracks annually.
Councilmember John Eastman vociferously opposed the award, noting that Measure R is not intended to fund the operations and maintenance of projects that were never funded by Measure R to begin with. “Was the Commission under duress?” he wondered.
“The Commission does regard this as supplanting,” replied Recreation Commissioner Betsy Truax. But she added that with no General Fund money to spare, “we were told this is the only way to keep the tennis courts running.”
In spite of this, Eastman argued that, “This was put in there inappropriately in the first place.” He made a motion to remove the $14,000 from the Measure R award list; the motion found unanimous support from the Council. Council voted to shift the $14,000 to the capital reserve fund instead.
The reserve fund itself raised hackles during the Measure R workshop prior to the Town Council meeting.
Mayor Rick Wood argued that allotting the Measure R fall award fund balance to a reserve fund for grant matches and future projects would help the Council stop putting “$30,000 away here and there,” and instead focus on larger deliverables.
However, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) President John Wentworth contended that a capital reserve fund could allow the Council to sidestep the public review process built into Measure R. Such a fund “could put us right back where we started four years ago,” he said.
Moreover, he said, “”The Town has yet to provide the community an accounting of where the [Measure R] money has gone. I’m not convinced the Town has provided performance reports for all their projects.”
Councilmember Matthew Lehman disagreed with Wentworth’s suspicions regarding the capital reserve fund. “We’re saying, let’s put the money away and not spend it,” he said. “We’re not saying, there’s another fund we can tap into and circumvent [Measure R].”
“We’ve always set aside money for capital projects,” said Recreation Commission Chair Bill Sauser. And, he argued, “The Town does report back on projects. They do a reasonable job.”
Given the overall state of the Town’s economy, Councilmember Lehman went on to question the future of Measure R beyond the fall funding cycle. “With things looking as bleak as they could be, how are we looking as far as being able to meet obligations?” he wondered.
Interim Town Manager Dan Holler reassured Lehman that for this fiscal year, Measures R and U are safely in the bank. However, Mayor Wood added, “If we’re down 15% in sales and utility tax [next fiscal year], Measures R and U will be down 15% as well.”
Aside from the tennis court rehabiltation, Town Council unanimously approved the Rec Commission’s recommendations.