This 4th of July parade entry, shockingly, was not the float submitted by Mammoth Lakes Town Council, but rather the handiwork of the Johnston family. Was that an iceberg ahead, or an ice rink? (Photo: Lunch)
Right now, the Mammoth Lakes Ice Rink is simply toxic.
Two Mammoth Lakes Town Council members, Rick Wood and Jo Bacon, made it clear at Council’s regular meeting Wednesday that they were not on Council at the time and had nothing to do with the deal struck in 2007 to place the rink on property leased from the Mammoth Unified School District.
The reason they are distancing themselves is simple. The Town’s spent well over $1 million on the project so far, and yet, would need to spend an additional $3 million to complete it. The estimated cost to abandon the project is over $1 million.
Neither option sounds attractive to a Town that’s anything but flush with cash.
On Wednesday, Council was confronted with yet another unpopular choice involving the rink. Council responded the way you’d expect politicians to respond; by punting the issue down the road.
But not without a certain degree of irritation.
The immediate decision before Council was whether or not to spend $28,000 on the next construction phase of the project (for fencing).
But Wood was concerned that even such a relatively small expenditure keeps the Town moving in an inexorable direction, with every step begetting the next.
The next being a potential $350,000 expenditure for a permanent concrete slab upon which to set the rink.
This set off alarm bells for much of Council. As new Councilmember Matthew Lehman remarked, “I’m concerned about the long-term obligations.
This is a $28,000 option to spend more money,” he concluded.
Newly-elected Mayor Skip Harvey agreed that “this has turned into a financial nightmare … but I hate to scrap it. I don’t think we should give up on it.”
And as he added afterward, “I agree with what Dieter Fiebiger always says, that we’ve got to do it for the kids.”
Tourism and Recreation Commissioner Teri Stehlik was fairly outraged that the matter had not been brought forward to the Commission for further discussion.
“We were told this [Council approval] was a done deal.” Which was why the Commission didn’t weigh in.
”That’s not exactly what I said,” rejoined Deputy Town Manager Karen Johnston.
Johnston said it would cost $1.4 million to start on a new site for the rink.
The most important questions for Wood remain whether and where. Whether we should have a rink, and if so, where it should go. He wishes to consider the rink within the broader scope of a recreation master plan.