The Town of Mammoth Lakes saw a year of shattered records for Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenue and the local taxeaters immediately sat down to figure out how to spend it. When not giving themselves “one-time” bonuses, Mammoth contemplated building Multi-Use Facilities (with new ice rink), a police station, and a new airport terminal. This despite owing a $2 million annual payment (at 5.75 percent interest) for its airport litigation settlement. In addition, the likely lowering of the investment expectation in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) to 7 percent over three years will require public employers to make “significantly higher annual contributions” to their employees’ pension plans, according to the Wall Street Journal. Ever optimistic, the majority of members of Mammoth Lakes’ Town Council have voted this year to fund several projects to ensure that generations to come will be footing the bill.
Mammoth residents learned on Wednesday, December 21 that they won’t be skating on their new world-class ice rink/multi-use facility, affectionately nicknamed the MUF, by the previously promised October 31, 2017 date, and that the current price tag for the facility, calculated by HMC Architects, is a cool $10,580,000.
Mammoth Town Council approved the decision to build the MUF at Mammoth Creek Park west in October of 2015. In their dissenting opinions, both then-Mayor Michael Raimondo and then-Mayor Pro-Tem Shields Richardson said that they did not feel the Multi-Use Facility was the best use of funds.
“We don’t have any money,” said Raimondo. “I’ve been on this council for 4 years, all we’ve done is cut and cut and cut, and now we’re trying to figure out how to spend two million bucks to build a new site.”
The estimated price of the facility rose throughout 2016. Meanwhile, neighbors abutting the property have also threatened to sue, which Town Attorney Andy Morris said on December 21 will likely cost at least $100,000 to fight, and “could be a lot more.”
“We know we’re probably going to get sued,” Recreation Manager Stuart Brown said in March.
Tom Bell of the La Vista Blanc condominium Homeowner’s Association said in March “They say they’re going to build a world-class skating center with a $2 million budget. If it were a $10 million budget, we’d be saying go for it. But that’s not the case. They don’t have the money to go out and do it right, so they’re going to go out and do it wrong, and it’s going to be in our backyard.”
As of December 21, Town Council authorized a further $250,000 to HMC Architects to “further the design, enable additional value engineering work and prepare more detailed cost estimates.” This on top of $200,000 already spent on consulting services.