Mammoth drops a few more staff, but nothing’s free
They’re getting there. Maybe via a circuitous route without a map, but they’re getting there.
Mammoth Lakes Town Council made another round of staff cuts at its regular meeting Wednesday in the hopes of finally balancing a budget, but again, the cuts were made more out of convenience than necessity.
Of the four eliminated positions, one police sergeant (Hugelman) got “terminated” presumably based upon recent off-duty antics in Las Vegas and Bishop, one person in the finance department moved away, and two staffers (Town Clerk Anita Hatter and Cay Lepre at the Visitor’s Bureau) took early retirement offers.
Town Finance Director Brad Koehn estimated that the early retirement buyouts will cost the Town approximately $6,000/year. The retirements become effective December 31, 2009.
The Council will readdress its budget and possibly make another round of staffing cuts in November.
One interesting exchange did take place during Council discussion when the subject of employee furloughs (set to expire in 2010) came up. Town Manager Rob Clark said the furlough issue would be addressed as part of the 2010-2011 budget process.
No, no replied Councilmember Jo Bacon, who expects the furlough issue to be tackled as part of the ongoing staff restructuring process.
So what’s that crane doing behind the White Stag? It’s meant to serve as a height demonstration for the proposed Mammoth Crossing project. The height demonstration will continue Friday, Sept. 4 and Saturday, Sept. 5. Sheet photographer Andy Thies says he fielded a lot of unsolicited commentary while he was out shooting pictures, most of it along the lines of, “Wow, that’s really … tall.”
Council finally approved its 12-year lease extension at the Minaret Mall after gaining a crucial concession from its landlord. In short, if the Town’s sublessee, Mono County, moves out, the Town will not get socked with an automatic 15% rent penalty.
In regards to the Old Mammoth Lift route, Red Fir Rd. residents successfully lobbied Council to remove the route from their street. The route’s turnaround will now take place opposite Le Verne in the Bluffs (at the winter closure area for Old Mammoth Rd.) Which may reflect an ‘all’s well that ends well’ outcome. Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) and other recreation enthusiasts have consistently pushed for public transit access to recreation nodes.
Nevertheless, the decision could not be finalized without a few parting shots. Old Mammoth resident Mel Lewin said, “The better you connect with the community, the lesser the friction [you’ll create].”
A somewhat frustrated Public Works Director Ray Jarvis implied that if the initial plan had been implemented for a turnaround at lower Red Fir, none of this controversy would have ever been stirred up.
“You have a professional engineering staff. Use us, “ he said.
Council convened a special emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the ongoing bear situation and how to handle it. Blondie the bear, as many readers may have guessed, was at the center of the back and forth between the public and Council.
For starters, Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Randy Schienle confirmed that the recently issued depredation permit issued on Blondie has expired, Schienle added that at this time there are no plans to renew it, as well as no other applications currently filed for such a permit.
Councilmember John Eastman picked up on that ball. “Since that’s the case, I don’t see any immediacy,” he said, suggesting that gives everyone time to explore options on a diplomatic level, including sending Blondie (if she’s spotted and captured) to the Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) facility in Rancho Cordova for health and other inspections.
Mayor Neil McCarroll, however, isn’t so touchy-feely about Blondie. “I abhor that she’s even been given the name Blondie,” McCarroll opined. “She’s a bear. She’s not cute and cuddly, or a ‘cat burglar.’ She’s dangerous, a wild animal and deserves to be treated that way.”
McCarroll, who’s had up close encounters with Blondie in his own kitchen, went on to relate another recent brush with the bear, who he said charged one of his neighbors. “And it wasn’t a bluff, either. If they hadn’t had access to a nearby door, they’d be in pieces,” he said.
McCarroll said he wanted to explore the use of “cross-delegation,” a legal practice that allows sworn peace officers to handle issues with other humans on Forest Service land without the need for a ranger to be present. There could be, he thought, enough of a broad interpretation of that legality to allow an Animal Control Officer to have similar leeway when it comes to critters, even though they aren’t officially sworn peace officers. Eastman said he’d be interested in getting Schienle’s authorization to a depredation call on scene, and find out what Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles would need to be “certified” on a state/federal level.
While cross-delegation could give Searles more of an ability to do his intended job without so many restrictions, Town Attorney Peter Tracy must vet it legally, especially given previous DFG conflicts that have several times prevented Searles from taking any action outside the Town limits.
Council member Wendy Sugimura flatly refuted some public perception that the Town isn’t working with the Forest Service and DFG. “They’re at the table with us constantly. We have a good working relationship with them. That doesn’t mean things area going smoothly the whole time,” Sugimura stated.
Bear-With-Us spokesperson Marianne O’Connor again made her case for “translocation” of Blondie to the Wild Animal Sanctuary (WAS) in Colorado, essentially putting the bear in a sort-of “free-range” incarceration. That goes against the stated position of the DFG by Bruce Kinney, who previously said she’s not a likely candidate for such a transfer. Sugimura further added that it’s not the state’s policy to transfer our bear burdens on other states.
Searles said there have been other cases of translocation involving bears and other animals that could be viewed as a precedent of sorts as well, citing the incarceration of Arthur the bear.
Council took no official action.