Mammoth Lakes Town Staff was asked to make an eleventh hour adjustment to the Fall Measure R application for a special event feasibility study at a special meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commission on Tuesday.
The purpose of the meeting was to give all Measure R applicants the opportunity to answer questions from the Commission regarding their applications for the $355,332 available in Measure R funding.
Senior Planner Ellen Clark presented the Commission with a brief overview of the feasibility study application, which began with an ask of $60,000 that dropped to $25,000 after the Commission requested a reduction. The $25,000 would go toward a more limited technical study of biological and cultural constraints at several potential venue sites, she explained, which would precede a full-blown feasibility study at one or two of those sites at a later date.
“This is a placeholder request,” Clark said of the current application. She elaborated that town staff would be coordinating with the Economic Stimulus Council and Mammoth Lakes Events Coalition to narrow the number of sites to be studied, and would come back to the Recreation Commission with a particular scope of work for authorization in early Spring.
Commissioner Teri Stehlik expressed reservations about the application. “To me, this isn’t completing what the initial intent was,” she said. “Why are we doing this piecemeal? Let’s [just] do a feasibility study.”
Commissioner Knud Svendsen agreed: “request more money, but do it right the first time.”
But Chair Bill Sauser dissented, saying “this [study] could easily throw some sites out of the mix” to narrow down the possibilities for a more extensive—and expensive—feasibility study. “This is a small amount of money to do the grunt work,” he said.
Clark noted that it was due to the Commission’s previous request that she brought the amount down from $60,000, which necessitated a more limited study. However, she agreed that should the Commission now desire a more extensive study, the $25,000 could rise again to around $45,000.
Commissioners asked if Clark might bring that down to $35,000, pointing out that the Nordic biathlon had just conducted a feasibility study for that amount. Clark replied that the biathlon was an already-established event, while the feasibility study for special event sites would have to take into account multiple events, both established and speculative. “Nordic had a program,” Clark said. “This study will have 3 or 4 moving parts.”
Clark also made an effort to debunk the myth of previous feasibility studies sitting on a shelf somewhere in the town offices. An argument at previous Recreation Commission meetings, as well as Economic Stimulus Council meetings, has been that the data from these previous studies could be used to help narrow the scope and therefore cut the cost of a new feasibility study. “Everyone likes to think there’s all these things out there, but when you try to find them, they’re elusive,” Clark said. If they do exist, she added, “some don’t have much of a shelf life if they were done 15 years ago.”
Commissioner Sean Turner offered Clark an apology on behalf of the Recreation Commission: “I don’t think we’ve been clear in what we want [from the application] because I’m not sure that we know,” he said.
However, Commissioner Stehlik added, “If you asked me today would I approve this application, I’d say, unfortunately, absolutely not. It’s not going to provide us with what we need.”
Commissioners concurred that Clark should bring back the application with a broader scope. “I’m not concerned with the dollar amount,” Chair Sauser said. “It’s the quality that matters.”
The Recreation Commission will meet again on Jan. 10. The Commission will make its award recommendations on Jan. 19.