Council approves additional $50,000 for facility planning and development.
Mammoth Town Council voted 3-2 on Wednesday, Jan. 6 to authorize a transfer of $50,000 from the Parks Development Impact Fee (DIF) account to the Town of Mammoth Lakes Capital Budget to be used for consulting services for the Multi Use Facility (MUF). In November, Council had amended the 2015/16 fiscal year budget to allocate $150,000 for the Mammoth Creek Park West project.
Mayor Michael Raimondo, who, along with Mayor Pro Tem Shields Richardson, voted “no” on the motion, wondered why the additional $50,000 was necessary.
Raimondo and Richardson also voted “no” on the two subsequent motions related to the MUF—to authorize the Town Manager to finalize scope and fee negotiations with HMC Architects, and to authorize the consulting agreement with Michael Baker International to prepare a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review for the MUF.
Public Works Director Grady Dutton responded to Mayor Raimondo’s question by saying that, in coming up with the initial estimate for the consulting services, “we tried to make our best guess.” However, he said, the scope of the project has increased since the motion to move forward with the MUF passed in October of last year.
Town Manager Dan Holler said that the EIR, and therefore the CEQA, could not move forward if the preliminary design was not completed, and this could not happen without the extra $50,000. He said he felt that allocating funding from the Parks DIF for the MUF was a “very legitimate” use because the MUF served a function of “adding value to our community.”
Wednesday’s “yes” vote now brings the total to $200,400 simply to commence with the preliminary design and environmental review for the project.
Further confusing the issue is the fact that on Monday, Jan. 5, some Council members had apparently been approached with the idea that the international planning firm Hart Howerton may be contracted to help design a “story map” of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, according to Holler. He said that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area had already been in discussions with Hart Howerton and that MMSA had approached the TOML to see if they were interested in collaborating.
Council made reference to the firm for about ten minutes before Councilman Colin Fernie asked to clarify for the public exactly what Council was talking about.
“They’re visioning what Mammoth could look like—taking all the amenities that we want as a town, putting in our available land, the mobility, all these overlays that they do,” said Richardson. “They’re an international firm… they’ve done community planning around the world.”
Both Richardson and Raimondo, who voted in October against moving forward with the MUF at Mammoth Creek Park West, said that the discussions with Hart Howerton gave them even more reason to pause. It’s possible, Holler admitted, that Hart Howerton could suggest moving the MUF to a different location once their “visioning” process was complete. However, he said, the preliminary design work that the current funding was providing for could be utilized in a different location even though it is currently site-specific.
Both Raimondo and Richardson urged Council to pause, particularly considering the possible recommendations of Hart Howerton.
“It might come back that Hart Howerton says absolutely [Mammoth Creek Park West is the] best place for a MUF,” Richardson said.
However, there was a good deal of discussion about the fact that the planning firm might decide the MUF would fit best somewhere else, and the funds on the preliminary design would therefore be wasted.
In discussing the growing cost estimate for the MUF, Council member Jo Bacon was unruffled about the moving of the funds from the Parks DIF due to the greater “scope” of the project. “Since we’re just talking money here, I recognize that even though there is a little bit of scope creep, it is scope creep that we agreed to,” she said.
It was also noted at the beginning of the Council meeting that Feb. 15 through March 11 is the filing period during which nominations are open for the two Town Council seats up for election.
Town staff will be holding a public meeting on Friday, January 29 from 4 – 6 p.m. to discuss the MUF planning process.