It was a big night for recreation at Wednesday’s Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting, but it ended in confusion.
Following the adoption of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the approval of a resolution to establish and formalize a high level of interagency cooperation with the United States Forest Service to plan, design, implement, construct, operate, maintain and promote an integrated year-round trail network, things got a little fuzzy.
Council discussed the Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commission’s recommendations for the fall 2011 Measure R award cycle. The confusion arose when it came time for Council to take a vote. Recreation Commissioners believed that if Council approved their recommendations, it would not only be approving dollar amounts for projects but also a 5-year commitment to the Mammoth Lakes Trail System for a minimum of $300,000 per year from Measure R.
Commissioners and the public became confused when Council explained that it was not approving (or denying) the MLTS (Mammoth Lakes Trails System) commitment that night.
“We haven’t said yes, but we haven’t said no,” Mayor Jo Bacon explained to The Sheet on Thursday. “We’ll discuss it during upcoming budget deliberations which will give the committee time to determine what projects the first year’s $300,000 would be used for.”
The committee Bacon referred to is the Mammoth Lakes Trail System Coordinating Committee (MLTSCC). Earlier in the evening Council had approved a motion that included directing the Town Manager and Recreation Commission to “present a proposal to the Town Council for the formation and convening of the ‘Mammoth Lakes Trail System Coordinating Committee.’”
By approving the fall Measure R project awards (outside of the $300,000 proposed commitment to the MLTS), Council also officially appropriated $6,900 to staff the MLTSCC.
So the committee will form, and then discuss projects that the first year’s $300,000 would fund. That discussion will then be integrated in the upcoming budget process.
Recreation Commissioners were still baffled that the MLTS commitment was not included in the approvals Wednesday night. At least three of them, Bill Sauser, Teri Stehlik and Pat Agnitch, who were present at Wednesday’s meeting, had been under the impression that the recommendations before Council included the MLTS commitment. So by approving the Commission’s recommendations, Council should have approved the commitment to the MLTS.
Commissioner Agnitch even made a specific effort to point out that the Commission had taken two votes at its Jan. 19 meeting where it made its recommendations. The first, which passed 6-0, was to approve the Measure R projects that were listed in Table 1 of the Council’s packet and to recommend the resolution also in the packet. The second vote was regarding the MLTS commitment. It had passed 5-1, with Agnitch dissenting because she believed the process should be reviewed on an annual basis, not given a 5-year commitment.
Council only took action on that first vote Wednesday night.
The next step will be for the MLTSCC to form, finalize its membership and then make recommendations to the Recreation Commission and Town Council regarding projects for the MLTS, including a five-year capital and minor project list, prioritization, schedule and annual budget for the MLTS.
One member of the public, Donnette Huselton, again voiced concern over earmarking future Measure R funding before knowing what other projects might apply to the fund in the future.
“Donnette Huselton was concerned that we are circumventing the Measure R process [by syncing up the MLTS with the Town budget process] and that’s exactly what we’re doing because we are making trails a priority,” Bacon added on Thursday.
Deb Pierrel of Intellectual Equity Resort Consulting Group, and Joyce Turner officially handed over the budget-formatting tool they helped develop over the past two years to the Town of Mammoth on Wednesday night. The new format is expected to make budget data easier to read and digest, or as Councilmember Skip Harvey described it, “We now have a ‘Skip-friendly’ budget.”
Council, at the advice of Town Attorney Andrew Morris, deferred awarding a contract for a Town Yard Lighting Retrofit Project until the bidding process was reviewed. One of the bidders, Martin Kleinbard raised concerns with what he described as discrepancies with the process. He claimed he had been trying to do his due diligence while putting together his bid and had asked several questions of Town staff but had not received a response for two months. He also claimed that the bidder who was selected had an “inside scoop” on the project because the bidder had previously worked on a portion of the project. Morris will review the process and bring back a determination at Council’s Feb. 15 meeting.