A $20,000 contract turned into a lengthy debate at Tuesday’s Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting when Supervisor Tim Fesko adamantly opposed using General Fund monies to fund it.
The contract is for consulting with Professional Aquaculture Services (Tony Vaught) for Conway Ranch Aquaculture and Interpretive Site Evaluation and Planning Services. The contract would be set not to exceed $20,000 and would include Vaught’s travel expenses.
According to the staff report, “The County recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Caltrans which, if all conditions of the MOU are satisfied, would ultimately result in certain grant restrictions (EEMP Cycle 7 grant) being removed in a seventy-five (75) acre area of Conway Ranch where fish-rearing and other fishing activities are currently occurring, thereby allowing the County to more fully utilize that area. It is proposed that the County retain Professional Aquaculture Services (Tony Vaught) to assist the County in evaluating and planning for future aquaculture facilities and an interpretive site in that 75-acre area. The consultant would obtain input from all interested stakeholders in that planning process, including but not limited to Inland Aquaculture Group, Conway Ranch Foundation, and the Fisheries Commission. The Fish Enhancement Fund (not part of the general fund) has available funds to pay for this contract if the Board so wishes.”
The planning process is something to be done before the conservation easement, one of the conditions of the MOU, is final, explained Mono Count Counsel Marshall Rudolph.
“Tony is the best in the business to evaluate property and create plans for niche boutique operations,” said Supervisor Tim Alpers, who knows Vaught. This plan “will help ensure our trout economy.”
Fesko did not want to take the money out of the Fish Enhancement Fund either.
“That money is suppose to be used for fish,” he said.
He suggested either using some of the Mono County Fisheries Commission’s discretionary fund, or taking the money out of the Conway Ranch Fund.
There was some confusion over whether or not the Fisheries Commission fund rolled over each year. Fesko was under the impression it did not, but County Finance Director Leslie Chapman said that it did, and Roberta Reed, the County’s Assistant Finance Director and Auditor-Controller, agreed.
“The fund was created six years ago,” Reed explained. “It is in addition to the $100,000 budget for fish enhancement and is meant for the Commission’s special projects. It’s [budgeted funding] $25,000 and what they don’t use rolls over.”
Currently, as the end of the fiscal year approached, the Commission has about $19,000 left in the discretionary fund, according to Fesko.
“It’s seems that this is a debate over where the money will come from, not the contract, itself,” Rudolph tried to clarify.
He explained that the plan that would come from the contract would be “a master plan concept for where we want to head. It could evolve into a specific plan amendment but it’s not a land use plan and it would need further approvals before you could do anything on the ground.”
“It’s not critical right now where the money comes from,” chimed in Supervisor Larry Johnston.
Supervisor Fred Stump agreed that the money should come from the Conway Ranch Fund and the Board authorized the contract with payment to come from this fund, unanimously.
After the vote was taken, Supervisor Fesko said the term “rollover” regarding the Fisheries Commission’s discretionary fund was still confusing.