After the vote to rescind penalties and interest for an illegal home rental at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, Teri Stehlik approached Councilman John Eastman and asked him why he voted to essentially derail more than two years’ worth of work on T.O.T. (illegal home rental) enforcement.
“He told me he didn’t understand,” said Stehlik. “He didn’t elaborate on what he didn’t understand.”
Stehlik believed the appeals hearing should have been a slam dunk. That Town Staff had presented an airtight case, and that Council had been presented with the perfect opportunity to set precedent.
“We just hired a full-time TOT compliance person. [After Wednesday’s decision] Why?”
Cheryl Witherill said there are currently 75 active TOT compliance cases. If Wednesday’s case is a typical case, and the Town chooses to forgive the penalties and interest for each transgressor, the Town’s potentially foregoing a half-million bucks in revenue.
Councilmember Jo Bacon was cited in Geisel’s cover story as referencing the appellant (Cozen) as possibly being misled by Town Staff, thus influencing her decision.
The Cozens, however, apparently misled the entire room on Wednesday night by claiming that they stopped actively trying to rent their home in December 2011 after they learned that what they were doing was illegal.
And yet, there was an email penned by Carolynn Cozen included in the agenda packet dated March 27 which looks an awful lot like an active solicitation of a rental:
“The discount rate for the week is $4,200 (regular $700/nt). I will further discount it to $4,000/wk. $150 cleaning fee and $1,000 refundable security deposit or a one-time $59 insurance fee in lieu of the security deposit …”
A question many had in the aftermath was whether or not Rick Wood should have participated in the discussion. It is known, based upon the minutes of the Oct. 18, 2012 Council meeting, that Wood represents clients who are in the midst of their own TOT enforcement appeal.
If Wednesday marked a precedent-setting type of decision, wouldn’t Wood have necessarily saved these clients and other potential clients thousands of dollars in fees?
Town Attorney Andrew Morris explained Thursday that each appeal hearing is a separate matter, and that Council “has to look at every appeal on its own merits. What they did last night does not set precedent.”
Wood would only have a conflict if his own client (and thus, a source of income) was before Council.
And from Geisel’s desk …
County addresses hang ups with phone system
If the phone doesn’t ring, you’re probably talking to Mono County. On Tuesday, Information Systems Specialist Kirk Hartstrom briefed supervisors on how to solve some vexing phone issues in certain parts of the County’s phone system. The system, installed in 2001-2002, still works, but hasn’t lived up to expectations when it comes to changing technology.
The Avaya phone system links the Sierra Center Mall, Minaret Mall and the Annex buildings in Bridgeport. Animal Control, Health and Road Shop don’t have dedicated copper wire landlines, and use first-generation IP phones, similar to the Voice Over Internet Phone service from providers such as Vonage.
There is a design flaw in the actual phone hardware: sometimes the IP doesn’t recognize a user is trying to get online and won’t work, leading to frequent banging on desks. Other times, calls are dropped. Nancy Boardman of Animal Control reported calls that are answered, but go immediately to speakerphone, or back to handset, or no dial tone. Confidential or private calls are difficult. And the Avaya system only supports the Polycom phone.
His recommendation, a combination of corrective measure and equipment trial balloon, was to spend $30,950, including $27,000 to Hula Networks for the purchase and installation of an Adtran server phone system, $650 in Microsoft licensing, and $3,300 to Windstream for programming services and hardware for integration with the County’s current Avaya system. This expense would be partially offset by a $2,120 rebate from Polycom’s paid4trade program for the old phones.
The County, Hartstrom said, could opt to do nothing, but would only incur more complaints about poor customer service, not to mention frustrated employees. The current system is also expensive to maintain, about $25,000 a year, and doesn’t allow taking advantage of Digital 395’s potential. Another options is to buy a phone system just for the 40 affected phones, about $25,000, but those lines won’t be on the County system, and would require an additional monthly use fee, whereas the new trial system could integrate with the County phone system, and grow with D395.
Hartstrom advised that it would cost between $175,000-$225,000 to replace the entire County phone system, a bite out of the budget the Board isn’t yet willing to take. However, annual maintenance of a brand new system is about $6,000 a year, about $19,000 a year in savings.
The Adtran system, Hartstrom added, can interface with any similar type of phone system made anywhere. Digital 395 would provide more than enough bandwidth to handle its specifications as well. Redundant servers would be located in Mammoth and Bridgeport. More cost savings could occur from elimination of a VOIP converter the County is already using to reduce T1 telecomm costs. Annual Internet expenses would be cut almost in half, according to bandwidth use cost estimates Hartstrom compiled, $75,000 reduced to about $40,000. “We’d be buying a $31,000 test site for what could be a bigger move to come,” noted Supervisor Tim Fesko. The Board voted unanimously to spend the money from its contingency fund. –Geisel
A clarification regarding last Fridays’ story on the North Star Counseling Center (NSCC). In the photo caption, Didi Tergesen and Ana Danielson are not employed by North Star, but rather by the Mono County Office of Education (MCOE). North Star is a non-profit governed by a 5 person Board of Directors. NSCC is a project funded through the Student Mental Health Initiative through MCOE. Just making sure that’s clear!
And … Town Planner Jessica Morris pointed out that in our cover story on the Main Street Development Plan, the Main Street plan is actually targeted for completion this year December 2013, not 2014.
Hernandez fundraiser set at Good Life
There is a fundraiser planned for Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Good Life for Victor Hernandez, a longtime Mammoth resident who is battling stomach cancer. From 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m., it’s open menu, and from 4-9 p.m. dinner tickets are available for a set menu.
Buz Schott memorial
A memorial gathering for Lawrence Albert “Buz” Schott will take place Saturday, March 2 beginning at 1 p.m. at the Schott residence at 2665 Skyline Drive in Minden … and condolences to the family of Eugene “Grumpy” Hornbeck, who passed away on Valentine’s Day. We will run that obituary next week.