Mono County CSA 1 looking to spend some dough
With $125,000 burning a hole in its pocket, Mono County Service Area 1, or CSA 1, is ready to get to work on some of the projects in its 10-year plan, but it seems to be having a tough time revving up.
“I’m really frustrated,” said CSA 1 member Kim McCarthy at Wednesday’s Long Valley Regional Planning Advisory Committee (RPAC) meeting. Not only is her CSA unable to get the public to attend its monthly meetings to discuss how to spend the money, she also continues to be shot down by Mono County when she brings her CSA’s ideas to the table.
“There’s a lack of communication in Bridgeport,” she explained. “We try to communicate and get no response.”
According to McCarthy’s report, “The CSA 1 is an advisory board to the Mono County Board of Supervisors, and consists of five volunteer citizens who live within the district.” The district runs from the geothermal plant at U.S. 395 and Hwy 203 to Sunny Slopes and Tom’s Place. One of the group’s major accomplishments to date is getting the Crowley Lake Community Center constructed.
The group’s budget, according to the report, is based on a percentage of property tax dollars it receives from the Mono County Assessor’s Office. Its goal is to use this budget to best fill the needs of the citizens who live within the district. It cannot spend more than $5,000 on any given project without the approval of the Mono County Board of Supervisors.
McCarthy had presented her CSA’s ten-year plan to the Board of Supervisors in May, and was asked to bring the report to the RPAC for input.
The number one item on the 10-year project plan was building the Crowley Lake Library. However, McCarthy stated that she had been shot down not only by County Finance Director Brian Muir, but also the Mono County Office of Education.
“I was told by Brian Muir that the County doesn’t want to incur any debt for this,” McCarthy said. The County would need to help obtain the loan to build the library. The CSA, however, would then use a portion of its annual funding to make the loan payments.
“We were paying $52,000 per year on the community center loan, and we have set aside $75,000 annually to pay on the library,” McCarthy explained. The CSA has also designated $25,000 for design and development of the project.
“We could just keep this money in reserve, but we want to spend it now,” she said.
The RPAC pointed out that wanting to spend now was simply the American way.
However, since MCOE is still paying off its loan of $1.5 million to finish the Mammoth Library, it wasn’t interested in helping at this time either.
“Developer Impact Fees were suppose to pay that loan off,” McCarthy said.
She added that MCOE wanted to administer a survey to see if a library was really the community’s top pick for a project.
“The CSA has offered to pay for the survey,” McCarthy said.
The CSA would also like to use its funds to bring improvements to the Crowley Lake Ball Field, another project that McCarthy stated the community would like to see happen.
“People want to use the ball field,” she said, of the amenity that opened two years ago. “It’s just sitting there, not being used and not being developed by the County.” She said that people had requested barbecues, picnic tables, permanent restrooms and dugouts, among other things, be installed at the ball field.
“We [the CSA] could use some of the library reserve funding to do some of this, if the library isn’t going to move forward,” McCarthy said. “We would like to do it in phases, but we were told by the County that it wanted to do it all at once.”
“The ball field has been a 10-12 year process,” said Mono County Supervisor Hap Hazard, who represents the Long Valley area, of the bureaucratic process to get a project off the ground. “That’s just how long it takes. We need to master plan the ball field so we don’t put the dugouts in one place and then realize later they would have been better elsewhere.”
Members of the public and the RPAC suggested that CSA 1 produce a questionnaire to allow people in the district to actually rank which projects they would like to see be made a priority.
“We need real counts of what people want,” said Sunny Slopes resident, and soon to be RPAC member Johnny Goetz.
McCarthy said that her group could do a survey of this sort and agreed to take the feedback back to her CSA at its July meeting (the group meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Crowley Lake Community Center).
Scenic Byway Designation
Heather deBethizy, Mono County Planning Staff, gave a presentation on the County’s current efforts to have U.S. 395 designated as a National Scenic Byway. The County is currently working on its Corridor Management Plan, which will serve as its application to receive the designation.
“Currently 395 is a state designated highway,” deBethizy explained. This would be another layer.
“There are no additional regulations to do this,” she said. “I am 100% sure that there are no strings attached.”
The designation would require that billboards be banned from the highway, but according to deBethizy, billboards are already not allowed in Mono County.
The designation is meant to unify communities and enhance tourism and economic development.
“You’re supposed to tell a story along your route,” deBethizy said.
Not only did the County receive a grant of $196,000 to write the corridor management plan application, if designated a scenic byway, the County would also receive federal funding to help implement the projects outlined in the plan. Once the corridor management plan is completed, the County would submit it during open nomination period, which typically occurs every two years, according to deBethizy.
According to Scott Burns, Mono County Planning and Community Development Director, the corridor management plan is being worked on in conjunction with the County’s economic development plan. The two plans will compliment each other, according to Burns.
A consultant is being hired to produce the marketing chapter of the corridor management plan, and will be paid for with the grant funds. County staff will produce the remainder of the report, according to deBethizy.
Lee Scotese, RPAC Chair, was skeptical of the process. “It’s sound good, but it sounds too good,” he said. “It’s not worthwhile if we have to spend extra employee time on it.”
Management of projects if and when designation is achieved is still yet to be determined, according to deBethizy.
DeBethizy said she would be coming back around to the RPACs for potential project ideas to include in the plan at a later date.
According to Burns, the designation stops at communities, such as Lee Vining, along the route, so there would be no affects on businesses in communities along the highway. DeBethizy added that some of the funds that would be available with the designation could even be used to provide supplemental funding to off-highway projects as well.