Mammoth Recreation Commission lectured by Douglas County representative.
The Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commission held a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Multi Use Facility (MUF), which mostly centered upon Douglas County Community Services Director Scott Morgan telling the Commission how crucial building community trust was to the success of the project.
Building trust is “always about under-promising and over-delivering,” said Morgan, whose most recent successful building project was the Douglas County Senior Center in Gardnerville, NV.
Morgan advised those heading the MUF project to “create so much trust that you create a level of disinterest.”
“You can’t ever get behind that curve where people don’t trust you, so they feel like they’ve got to show up to everything.”
Morgan said that he won over most of the detractors to his latest project by involving them in the process of designing the structure. He said he even invited a member of the press in Douglas County to be a part of the design team of the Senior Center.
Success, he said, comes down to “making [the community] feel like they own this structure. Like they were really a part, and they weighed in.
“Building that trust doesn’t just get you through construction, it gets you through the tough times,” he said, noting that during budget crises, those who were involved in the project are more likely to work hard to keep funding flowing because of their sense of ownership.
He suggested involving Mammoth’s hockey players, many of whom have been vocal in their wish for a roof on the current facility. He said that those with competitive interests in the facility will work hardest to keep it running so that they can continue to play sports, despite being a minority of its users.
“You need the hockey team,” said Morgan. “I call them constituents. They’ll show up when they have to.”
Members of the board offered their gratitude to Morgan for his insight and stressed the importance of sticking to their proposed timeline in order to build the trust that he insisted was so crucial.
Recreation Commissioner Sean Turner reiterated that meeting the proposed ribbon-cutting date of Oct. 31, 2017 was vital so that the Commission would not be perceived as making promises they can’t keep.
“Just even the vote to make this happen and to move it was somewhat contentious,” he said. “Here we are, we’ve started a timeline, we need to make sure we build the community’s trust considering the vote was as close as it was.”
Admitting that “it is an aggressive schedule,” Tuner said that “if there’s any delays I think we need to respond to that as quickly as possible.”
However, said Morgan, “If it were me I’d be a little bit loose on some of those dates…I always tell everybody, ‘things go bad when you dig in the dirt.’
“It’s about things that are outside of your control,” he said. “When you put control into the hands of a utility or in the hands of CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act]…that can derail your system.”
He advised the Commission to “be honest with people. It’s a long process.”
Chris Taylor, Owner of HMC Architects, commented on the time frame for the building of the ice rink. He particularly addressed the limited funding for the project—the town has currently proposed an approximately $2 million dollar cap on the MUF itself, which does not include the proposed Community Center.
“Sometimes when you set a budget on a project and then you start it… a lot of times you’ve set yourself into so many parameters with a schedule, with a budget, we’ve got $2.5 million and that’s all we’ve got,” he said. “Why don’t you wait and play it out… maybe it’s better not to go forward with it right now and wait till you have more. Or you make some difficult choices. Often when you start off with a number and you’re trying to back into it…” problems can arise.
Recreation Commissioner Teri Stehlik interjected, “That’s where the trust is going to come in.”
Jeff Posey, Vice President of the Mammoth Youth Hockey Association, raised his hand. “Can I make a quick suggestion on building trust? Is there any way we can give anything for the people who gave money for the roof last year?” he said, referring to last year’s fundraising effort, “Raise the Roof,” which collected over $7,000 for a shade structure to be built on the existing rink. “Because quite frankly, I’m getting tired of them asking me once a week, “Where’s my money?”
“I think if you could do something to give them a little thank you that would really help. Because no one trusts you, honestly.”
“If you really want to start building trust, go to a happy hour,” said Posey. “And sit there and listen to those people. They don’t believe anything that is said at all.”
“That’s totally fair,” said Recreation Commission Chair Betsy Truax. “That’s why Sean [Turner] keeps pushing on the 2017 open date. I think we all have a lot at stake in delivering something that our community can be really proud of.”
Recreation Commissioner Bill Sauser lamented the fact that the outspoken opponents to the project have undermined the community’s faith. He said that their over-representation at meetings have swayed press coverage of the project.
Morgan advised that one of the solutions to the problem is, again, more involvement.
“So take the people who are currently ‘anti’ the move put them on the design team,” Sauser posited.
“One [person],” Morgan replied.
“Either they’ll quit or they’ll embrace the process. The ‘anti’ people really never go away…your hope is [that they will] quiet down and respect the process.”
The Recreation Commission debuted a “Plan Your Park” poster at the Tuesday meeting, which Truax said would be seen “everywhere” through the winter and spring while the Commission tries to engage the community.
The first meeting will be held on Jan. 29 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in Suite Z at the Minaret Village Shopping Center to discuss three possible designs for the facility, drafted by HMC. This will be followed by four subsequent workshops in February, March and April which will discuss the MUF, the Community Center, an accessible playground, and facilities programming.
Executive Director of Mammoth Lakes Recreation, Rich Boccia, stressed the need for a conceptual design to begin raising funds for the MUF—he said that he wanted to begin applying for grants and funding as soon as possible.
Morgan, however, reiterated his advice that building the community’s faith in its leaders was the paramount goal at this time.
“The money always comes,” he said, “It’s the trust that’s the hard thing.”