Measure U Committee hears “test” presentations
The Measure U Steering/Application Committee met Monday morning in Suite Z, and heard presentations from eight applicants, all hopeful they’ll receive a slice of the approximately $600,000, collected as a tax on local gas, phone and power bills since the measure took effect on July 1, 2011.
Approved by two-thirds of Mammoth voters in June 2010, the Mammoth Lakes Utility Users Tax, or Measure U, extended a 2.5% Utility Users Tax, and restricts the use of funds to Mobility, Recreation, and Arts & Culture.
The Committee is made up of civic and business leaders, including Mammoth Unified School District Superintendent Rich Boccia, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s Jim Smith, Bill Taylor, John Vereuck, Joyce Turner, John Wentworth, Mobility Commission Chair Sandy Hogan and Recreation Commission Chair Bill Sauser.
The Felici Trio’s Rebecca Hang was the designated spokesperson for the 9-member Mammoth Lakes Events Coalition (MLEC) for Summer Arts and Culture Special Events.
Hang said the member events attract more than 60,000 guests each summer.
On hand were MLEC members Maya Weinhart with Mammoth Food & Wine, Ken and Flossie Coulter for the Jazz Jubilee, Brian Schuldt representing the Mammoth Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Cathleen Calderon with Villagefest, Gaye Mueller for the Kids Fishing Festival, Sierra Summer Festival co-organizer and musician Pete Watercott, Mammoth Lakes Chamber’s Brent Truax for Mammoth Rocks, former Mammoth Rocks organizer Mark Deeds, who previewed his new Mammoth Wing & Swing event and also spoke for Dan Lehman’s Bluegrass festival.
The Bluesapalooza festival is a member of the MLEC, but was not represented, as it has requested no Measure U dollars.
The MLEC’s cumulative request was for $88,600.
Their events, say members, generate $1.6 million in economic activity.
“The Coalition addresses the Town’s triple-bottom line and would boost community morale in no small way,” Hang pitched.
With some Coalition events having been in existence longer than others, some only entering their first year in 2012, Hang explained that the business plan tried to be more generous to new organizations, which can request up to 30%, whereas more established events can ask for up to 10% of the total.
Committee member Jim Smith wanted to know what is MLEC’s expectation of the Committee. “If you don’t get the entire 88,600, will some be excluded, or will you fight it out amongst yourselves?” he asked. “There won’t be any fighting,” Hang responded. “Since this is a new thing, a ‘trial run,’ [the MLAC] came to an internal agreement that lesser amounts will be prorated.”
Would a new event, such as Wing & Swing, even happen without Measure U? “Without seed funding, chances of the event happening would be minimal,” Deeds replied.
While Wing & Swing, which would incorporate both food and music components, is still in the conceptual stages, Dan Lehman’s Bluegrass festival is further along in terms of funding, lining up venue, talent and other aspects for the show, which is targeting the weekend following Mammoth Rocks, coinciding with Mammoth Brewing Company’s Hop & Sage Festival.
Should funding be awarded, Town contracts are expected to be written with the individual events, though a single, umbrella budget incorporating all 9 events would be turned over to the Committee. Feedback surveys for attendees would be standardized across all 9 events to gather statistics for use next year.
Town Recreation Manager Stu Brown, who’s facilitating much of the Measure U process, said this pilot round of funding might not be encumbered against any future funding cycles, since none exist at this time.
Also in the running for Measure U dollars: the High Sierra Striders on behalf of the Mammoth Track Project, which is considered something of a long shot, asking for nearly all the available funding pool amount in its request. Striders representative Elaine Smith, wife of Committee member Jim Smith, said corporate sponsorship is running below expectation and the cost of installation is running above.
The Mammoth Lakes Foundation, on behalf of the Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre, asked for funding in part to make Artistic Director Shira Dubrovner a full-time employee. Mammoth’s Chamber of Commerce added a separate ask for its July 4 events. The Eastern Sierra Transit Authority and the Town asked for subsidies to cover “enhanced” Trolley operation across the summer season of events. The Town also asked for funding for a Cultural & Sporting events feasibility study, a Public Works Transportation Construction Grant match, and Summer Programming and Operations funding for the Multi-Use Facility, which in the winter is also known as the Ice Rink.
“Let’s get some roller disco going,” Mammoth Recreation’s Stephanie Daniels quipped good-naturedly.
According to the Town’s website, Measure U funds do not need to be spent each year. If none of the applications submitted in the funding cycle align with goals of the Town or through the prioritization process are not determined as ‘top tier’, then funds might not be awarded. Recommendations might also be made for partial funding for any request, and do not have to represent the entire pool of funding available during any given cycle.
Wentworth suggested streamlining the Measure U reporting process prior to completing the funding cycle, noting that Measure R has a very specific reporting process.
The Steering/Application Committee will take up evaluations during its next regular meeting next Monday, May 7, at 9 a.m. in Suite Z. Council is expected to act on any final recommendations during its May 16 meeting.