Mammoth Lakes Recreation Director Stuart Brown, who’s taken on the task of organizing the Town Clean Up day, told Town Council Wednesday night that changes to the annual event can be expected.
For starters, the date is in flux. Originally scheduled for May 19, that date may not give the Town enough lead time to implement some of the new concepts.
One of those concepts involves locating temporary, ad hoc transfer stations in a strategic dispersal pattern around town. Another involves at least cutting back on the pickup of yard waste, in the hopes that more residents and second homeowners will assume more personal responsibility for their waste.
Exceptions or special considerations might be made for those who might have difficulties moving their yard waste to the main transfer station.
If the event isn’t held the weekend before Memorial Day holiday, another date being looked at is the June 2 weekend. Brown hopes to have something more definitive in place by the next Council special meeting this coming Tuesday.
In an addendum to that, Mammoth Fire Chief Brent Harper said grants could be available to help process yard waste for landfill cover use, and that the Chipper Day wood reclamation event is scheduled to return this summer.
Expect a different experience in parts of the Inyo National Forest’s land in and around Agnew Meadows this summer due to wood and debris from tens of thousands of trees that were felled during a severe windstorm last November.
On the bright side, Sue Farley, INF Mammoth Vegetation Management Planner, told Council that the public should be able to gain access to some of the more heavily damaged areas hopefully by mid-June. Some parts of the area were cleared during the winter, one benefit of the season’s light snowfall.
Farley also said that contracts for disposal of the wood products, which will be sent to chippers and mills, has helped offset virtually all of the labor. In addition, federal dollars have been made available for removal, and that the bidding process will be open to local contractors, some of whom have already contacted Farley She added that there are expected to be several contracts let and lots of work.
Caltrans District 9 Director Tom Hallenbeck came away with a split Council in an attempt to win support for a proposed Changeable Message Sign, to be installed on Hwy 203 on the southbound side heading toward U.S. 395. The sign, which would be paid for entirely out of federal transportation dollars, would have notices about everything from weather to deer alerts to road closures and other relevant travel conditions.
Hallenbeck said the sign doesn’t have to be put in. “Just tell me you don’t want it, and we won’t do it,” he told Council.
On the other hand, Caltrans has every right to install the sign in its right of way, with or without support from either the Town or Mono County. Council split in terms of viewshed impact versus public safety, with Councilmember Matthew Lehman and Mayor Jo Bacon dissenting, citing view impacts. Council members Rick Wood, John Eastman and Skip Harvey supported the sign for public safety reasons, with Wood pointing out that one-quarter of Mammoth’s workforce doesn’t live in town.
Hallenbeck said he would make a decision on the sign in the next few days, and opposed a request from the County’s Local Transportation Commission to halt a public notice and bidding process already underway. Federal dollars have to be spent by June 30, and Hallenbeck said any delay would set contractors and bidders back too far to take advantage of the funding.
And finally, the expected Public Meeting, scheduled by Town Staff and Council to “engage the community” yielded little in the way of either community or engagement.
Assistant Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez updated her April 18 “Budget 101” presentation, though little mention was made of the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition judgment, outside of some minor progress in the Town’s mediation process (a mediation judge has been secured), and no mention was made in either the staff report or the presentation of anything to do with Chapter 9 bankruptcy. MMM’s thrust was that economic challenges will continue, the Town has to reckon with its $2.8 million projected deficit for next fiscal year before it can address the judgment, the reserves are underfunded and cuts made during the last three years have pared spending to the bone.
The only public comment was made by John Morris, representing another MLLA — the Mammoth Lakes Lodging Association, who observed that, “There’s been a lot of talk about cutting, but what we need to look at is how to increase revenue.” He also pointed to an extreme cuts scenario that would hack another 14% out of every General Fund category to make up the $2.8 million shortage. Transient Occupancy Tax is expected to be off about 20% this fiscal year, and with an additional 14%, Morris was wary of what he indicated could mean an almost one-third cut to Mammoth Lakes Tourism, which is funded significantly by TOT. “When times got tough, [Snowcreek] doubled its marketing budget. Don’t cut off the head,” he urged Council.
Councilmember John Eastman said he was “preaching to the choir.” Look for a more detailed budget plan to be rolled out during the Special Meeting on Tuesday, May 8, at 6 p.m. in Suite Z. Also expected to be on hand as part of discussions about the MLLA judgment are legal representatives from Fulbright and Jaworski law firm, which is providing counsel to the Town on the matter.