Wednesday’s Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting was brief … or long, depending upon whether or not you’re privy to the closed session deliberations regarding the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition v. Town of Mammoth Lakes airport litigation judgment.
The brisk public portion, however, did see a fair amount of decisions made. One of the biggest could be a source of relief for Mammoth Lakes Housing, which has been financially challenged this past year. The non-profit agency has had to slash staff and is currently embattled in legal tussle with John Vereuck over a default on office space it initially purchased from Vereuck in 2004.
However, Council unanimously approved staff’s moving forward with an application for a Community Development Block Grant for various housing-related projects. The three-node grant requests include $600,000 for multi-family property acquisition and rehabilitation, another $400,000 for an existing multi-family rehab project for the Glass Mountain Apartments and $100,000 for two planning studies. One of those would be for revitalization programs specific to the Sierra Valley Sites neighborhood district.
The grants, which do not have to be accepted if awarded, require a maximum of $110,000 in matching Town funds (or 10%), which could be as cash, in-kind services or waivers. Cash payments would likely be pulled from the Town’s Housing Authority fund, and not the General Fund. Staff’s report, however, cautioned that, like many other buckets of Town money, the status of the Housing Fund could be “affected” by the litigation settlement discussions. Also the grant requests are “up to” amounts, and staff advised that there is currently no way to gauge how much the state will award.
Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw acknowledged that the request amounts mean match dollars that are much larger than usually requested for CDBG grants, but are geared to make them more attractive to the state. Also, the trio of grants could be approved a la carte, since they’re not necessarily interrelated.
During public comment on the matter, Leigh Gaasch voiced concern about affordable housing in Sierra Valley Sites. “Think about this before you go for grants: many residents have lived there since before there was a Town, when it was part of Mono County. I will [oppose] this until there’s a commitment to putting affordable housing all throughout town.”
MLH Director Pam Hennarty said she’s looking forward to the rehab projects, and the studies, which would add another 3 to 6 units of affordable housing to the Town’s inventory. “We’re taking something that’s in need of help and giving it a fresh, new breath,” she commented. MLH manages 130 units of affordable housing, but still has 170 people on its waiting list.
Jesse Baldwin, Contractors Association President, noted he hopes any work would go to local contractors. “Many would be happy to stand behind it if it would benefit local contractors,” he told Council.
Federal procurement requirements mean an open bidding process, and contractors have to meet license and bonding qualifications. Hennarty added that some types of projects don’t lend themselves to outside contractors.
“To the extent possible and feasible, we’d love to use local contractors,” she said.