Inyo Board slashes funding allocations for Community Project Sponsorship Grant applicants.
Applicants who applied for approval of their Inyo County Community Project Sponsorship Grants at Tuesday’s regular Board of Supervisors meeting were in essense shooting for the moon. These 18 applicants asked for a combined total of $139,133, with only $70,000 in funding available.
It is only inevitable that some grant requests were left on the launch pad, while others received only half of their request. It would prove to be a long meeting as it was clear that not all the applicants nor all the supervisors were pleased with the evaluation criteria and the amounts recommended for funding by the community volunteer 4-member panel that evaluated the grant requests. Panel members included Rich White and Mary Roper of Independence, Debra Schweizer of Bishop, and Chris Langley of Lone Pine.
Museum Services Administrator Jon Klusmire gave Supervisors a brief explanation of how the panel of four community volunteers came to their decisions for the recommendations, with the scoring emphasis placed on the level of community support provided and overall merit. There were a few moments when it appeared that Klusmire and the panel were on the pointed end of the stick in questioning by several of the Supervisors.
Most of the applications approved were for events and projects in the County that take place every year, and not for new, innovative ideas—which was once one of the objectives of the program.
Kathleen New, Executive Director for the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce, told Board members that while the $5,000 funding approved for their Inyo County Visitors Guide was only half of their request, two of the Chamber’s business members said they would fund the difference rather than not have the Chamber produce the popular magazine.
Friends of the Inyo received $6,000 for the two-and-a-half year old Owens Lake Bird Festival, $2,000 short of their request. While they had added a half-day to the event and raised the fee, they had lost a major funding source, explained event organizer Mike Prather. The Supervisors were unmoved, approving the amount recommended by the community panel.
The Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center took heavy hits in the difference between their “asks” and the “gives” by the County. And it clearly did not make Board Chair Jeff Griffiths, whose Second District includes the City of Bishop, very happy. The 2016 California High School Rodeo Finals Championship received only $4,000 of its $10,000 request largely because the Bishop Chamber of Commerce was slated to receive $30,000 from the Bishop Tourism Improvement District tax approved in 2014 by the Bishop City Council.
Griffiths took exception to the criteria used by the volunteer panel, saying BTID is meant for promotion of tourism and not for events put on by the Bishop Chamber of Commerce. For many it was a distinction without a difference. Klusmire responded that panel members did not like funding staff time and that their grant requests had included a large amount for staffing. He referenced that grant requests from others had “shoestring” operating costs.
Griffiths said that he was against BTID funds being taken into consideration by the County with respect to grant applications, suggesting that maybe it’s time that the Board of Supervisors take another look at the selection criteria.
Other Bishop Chamber requests were also substantially reduced, including the Blake Jones Fishing Derby from $10,000 to $4,000. A reprint of the Eastern Sierra Treasure Map brochure, another $10,000 “ask” received $2,000, and its Eastern Sierra Night Sky Location Brochure funding request of $5,073 received $2,000, while its Winter Fishing Contest and Fishing Season Opener Media Reception requests were not funded at all.
As part of his parting comments, Klusmire noted that the percentage of Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) that Death Valley brings in to the County accounts for 66 percent of the its total TOT revenue ($2,618,415) and its two community grant applications were both funded at two-thirds of their grant funding requests. Lone Pine, which accounts for 27 percent of County TOT funds, had its grant requests funded at 60 percent, and all of Bishop’s TOT funds go to the City of Bishop.
Following Klusmire’s comments, County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio told the Board that the County gives the Fairgrounds $15,000 for the CHSRA Finals.
3rd District Supervisor Rick Pucci suggested that the Board consider that, while a certain part of the community grant funding continue to be used for “specific programs and projects,” funding should be kept aside for “new projects.”
Fourth District Supervisor Mark Tillemans said that the funding should be “equitable” and “fair.” His was the dissenting vote on the eventual 4-1 approval at the end of the meeting. He felt strongly that the money could have been tweaked more by the Board for a fairer distributions of funding to new and recurring events.
One of those new projects that received a high score was the promotion of southeast Inyo arts and culture sponsored by the Shoshone Museum Association. The Association requested $9,300 and received $5,500.
Other successful grant request included:
The only “new, first-time” project, Southeast Inyo Arts and Culture, submitted by the Shoshone Museum Association, was funded for $5,500.
The annual Father’s Day Weekend Fishing Derby in Independence was funded at $4,500.
The Lone Pine Film History Museum tours in the Alabama Hills received $5,000.
The Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce received $5,000 for the 7th Annual Inyo Photo Contest; $5,000 for the Sierra Summer Music Concert; $6,000 for the Diaz Lake Early Opener Trout Derby; and $6,000 for the 38th Annual Wild Wild West Marathon.