Recreation Commission Chair Bill Sauser and other Commissioners hope that the Mammoth Town Council will commit General Fund dollars to better maintenance of Mammoth’s parks. (Photo: Kirkner)
The Recreation Commission in Mammoth Lakes met Tuesday afternoon only to find itself in the same vicious cycle that it has been in for the last few months. The Commission continues to try to nail down exactly what the term supplanting means in relation to Measure R funding, and prepped yesterday for their joint workshop with the Town Council on Oct. 20 where the matter will be further vetted. The Recreation Commission brought the issue to the Town Council at its Sept. 22 meeting and the Council agreed to work with the Commission on this slippery slope.
The matter of supplanting has floated to the top of conversation because of Mammoth’s need to fund several unfinished parks and maintain parks that are already present, on top of the need to build new parks and recreation projects. Public Works Director Ray Jarvis and Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw presented the Commission with a draft of a long list of these unfinished and unmaintained projects at Tuesday’s meeting. The lists, which still needs to be further prioritized, included projects such as the Trails End Park, the Whitmore Track, an Ice Rink/Multi-Use Facility, and ADA restroom doors at Shady Rest Park.
The Town had been counting on Developer Impact Fees to pay for many of the items on the lists but with the economy in the state it is in, there is no DIF to be seen. On top of that, approximately $200,000 of Measure A dollars previously used for some recreation expenses have now been allocated to the new Destination Marketing Organization, Mammoth Lakes Tourism. This is the correct place for the Measure A dollars, since they were originally earmarked for tourism, but it leaves an additional gap in funding for parks, trails and recreation.
“I want a political commitment from the Council that if Measure R is going to be used to finish parks then the General Fund should be committed to doing the maintenance,” said Commission Chair Bill Sauser in reference to next week’s discussion.
The rest of the Commission agreed that there had never been enough money from the General Fund earmarked for parks, trails and recreation, even during boom times in Mammoth. This has led to maintenance being deferred on many existing projects in town.
“You need to put more into the original project in order to shrink your deferred costs,” said Jarvis who likened the parks, trails and recreation funding gaps to what he had experienced a few years ago with funding for Town roads.
“It [roads] was an asset the Council wasn’t taking care of and it’s the same with parks,” Jarvis said. “There is maintenance that has to be done and kept up on. You wouldn’t let your house just fall apart.”
The General Fund needs to be committed to continue to fund what it is allocated to now, and then some, Sauser believed.
“The original Measure R concept was plan new projects, build them and then maintain them,” Commissioner Tony Colasardo pointed out. “The community was thinking ‘new’, not upgrading what was already there.”
The Measure R ordinance approved by voters in June 2008 states that the tax proceeds would be applied only to “planning, construction, operation, maintenance, programming and administration of all trails, parks and recreation facilities managed by the Town of Mammoth Lakes without supplanting existing parks and recreation facility maintenance funds.”
The Commission and the Council hope to work toward a common definition of what supplanting means in the above statement at the meeting next week. Wardlaw also urged the Commission to discuss with Council setting up a rehab and reserve fund, now.
“Set up that budget discipline,” he said. By doing this the Town would have a pot of money to go to in the future for maintenance needs.