A “Multi-Year Commitment of Measure R Funds to Enhance and Improve the Town of Mammoth Lakes’ Component of the Mammoth Lakes Trail System (MLTS)” piqued the interest of the Recreation Commission at Tuesday’s meeting in Suite Z, not because the application was asking for too much funding, but because it was asking for no funding at all.
While other town applications applying to the Fall Measure R cycle are requesting a range of funds from $6,197.28 for Recreation Programming Enhancements to $200,000 for Trails End Park Phase 3 Completion, Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht explained that the MLTS application would be requesting $0 from the fall cycle. “The idea is in springtime we would come back with an allocation request,” he said. The request could be for as much as $300,000 annually for up to 5 years.
“Really [the application] is a long-term commitment the Town is making to the Trail System and Master Plan,” Wilbrecht said. In a sense, he elaborated, the application is a gesture the town wishes to make to the Forest Service as part of an effort to secure a long-gestating Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the town and FS. The MOU, drafted this winter, would establish a non-binding partnership between Mammoth and the Forest Service for the maintenance of trails within and around town.
As the MLTS application itself stated, “Should Town Council appropriate the funds requested through this Measure R application to enhance and improve the Town’s component of a Mammoth Lakes Trail System, the Town will then work with the INF [Inyo National Forest] to prepare the necessary legal documents to bind the Town and the INF in a cooperative partnership wherein each agency will coordinate the planning, construction, operations, maintenance, programming and administration of their respective components of a Mammoth Lakes Trail System.”
However, Mobility Commission Chair Sandy Hogan pointed out that there was a discrepancy between Wilbrecht’s emphasis on the MOU and the actual “necessary legal documents” that would bind Town and INF together. “The MOU is just a formal handshake,” she said. “To start a project, the Forest Service has to have a collection agreement. An MOU isn’t necessary. My suggestion is have the necessary agreements signed.”
Wilbrecht agreed, and noted that he would be meeting with the Forest Service on Wednesday. “We want to meet with the Forest Service to find out if there are other agreements necessary,” he said. (Following that meeting, he told The Sheet that indeed some other binding documents such as a collection agreement would be necessary.)
Another criticism from Hogan: a 5-year budget for the MLTS application “is not realistic in this case. The Town doesn’t even have a two-year budget,” she said. “We’re in a state of flux.”
Donnette Huselton also voiced concern that the Recreation Commission might be committing the entirety of Measure R funds, which for fall comes to $355,332, to a future MLTS allocation of $300,000. Wilbrecht clarified that the $300,000 would be an annual allocation from spring and fall combined.
Recreation Commission Chair Bill Sauser was all for the application. “It’s a prioritization issue,” he said. “Are we as a community interested in the MOU?”
The proposed project has previously received Measure R funds: $421,520 for Spring and Fall 2009, and $510,540 for Spring and Fall 2010. The application will be presented to the Recreation Commission along with all other Measure R applications at a Special Meeting Dec. 13. On Jan. 19 the Recreation Commission will make its award recommendations.