If recommended by the Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commission and approved by Mammoth’s Town Council in the upcoming Measure R Spring Award cycle, the Mammoth Lakes Trail System (MLTS) would jump to the front of the line for every Measure R award for the next five years.
That’s the way local resident Donnette Huselton saw the request for an annual earmarked allocation of Measure R dollars of up to $300,000 for the MLTS at Tuesday’s Recreation Commission meeting.
Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht agreed that was what he was recommending.
According to the staff report and as previously reported by The Sheet, “The application as it stands … is to encumber $300,000 of Measure R funds annually beginning July 1, 2012 for a period of 5 years.”
The report went on to say that “If approved by Town Council, the $300,000 would be budgeted as a line-item — funds remain in the Measure R fund until approved by Town Council — with no need for the Town or proponent to submit a Measure R funding request during the 5-year time period.”
Huselton was concerned that the Recreation Commission was going to encumber so much of the Measure R funds before the actual money was even in its possession, that soon there would be nothing new left to award.
Huselton’s concerns may have derived from a review of the current award allocation. For the Fall 2011 Measure R award (Rec Commission recommendations are due Jan. 19), the Town has approximately $366,000 to hand out. Overall, however, the Measure R fund for January through September 2011, which is what comprises the fall award dollars, received approximately $785,000, according to Town Recreation Manager Stuart Brown.
The difference in what the Town actually has to award and what the Town actually received from the Measure R sales tax comes from previous financial commitments that had already encumbered the funds.
According to Brown, once the 2011 fall award cycle is completed, the Measure R fund will no longer be encumbered (because Town commitments to projects like the Whitmore Track will be satisfied). If the MLTS contract were approved in spring, however, that new commitment would shave off up to $300,000 each year from the Measure R fund before other awards are considered.
Gateway not for R
The Recreation Commission also went over several revisions to the Fall Measure R application list. Of note was the dramatic increased request for funding for the Gateway Monument from $25,000 to $250,000. Gateway Monument project leader Elizabeth Tenney was on hand to explain her thinking.
“I bumped up the request [in a letter to staff dated Jan. 4] to make the point of how important the gateway is,” Tenney said. “To put an exclamation point on the project.”
Tenney explained that even though she has received a lot of in-kind support for the project, her original estimate of needing $100,000 in actual cash may have been low.
“After reviewing the numbers it looks like it is going to be more like $0.35 on the dollar not $0.20,” she said.
She reiterated the importance of the monument, especially as the Town moves closer to a settlement or perhaps bankruptcy with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (Hot Creek).
“We need to show that we are still strong and that we are open for business,” Tenney said. “We want to get everyone’s attention [in a positive way].”
Recreation Commissioners, however, had a tough time drinking the Kool-Aid. Not because they disagreed with Tenney regarding the project’s importance, but because they weren’t sure the project was actually eligible for Measure R dollars.
Commissioner Tony Colasardo was unable to be present at Tuesday’s meeting, but left written comments to be read on his behalf. In these comments he stated that the Gateway Monument does not meet Measure R criteria and would be better suited as a Measure U project.
The problem for Tenney is that the Measure U Committee is still working on the distribution process for those funds and she wants to build the monument this summer while momentum is strong.
Tenney argued that because the monument would benefit the entire community and would act as a portal to “everything we have to offer,” it was in fact a great Measure R project.
“It’s the ultimate trailhead,” she said, adding that the once the Monument was installed the Mammoth Community Water District would be donating a pocket park.
“You would be getting a free pocket park,” she exclaimed, implying that this would help qualify the Monument for Measure R, which is suppose to be distribute to projects falling under parks, trails and recreation.
Commissioner Teri Stehlik, however, questioned how usable the pocket park would be.
“Who really wants to sit at a park right along 395?” she questioned.
Commissioner Pat Agnitch asked Tenney whether or not the $250,000 would be enough to cover all of her costs. Tenney believed it would.
“Are you having fundraising issues,” Agnitch questioned further.
“I am not going to approach businesses [for money] until it snows,” Tenney replied.
Commission Chair Bill Sauser opined that the project really seemed more like something that should be funded by the Public Arts Commission. Tenney went before that Commission early in 2011 but was denied her funding request. She told Sauser that she had already scheduled to go before that body again on Jan. 26.