“This is going to be an ongoing issue, there is no finality today,” said Mono County Supervisor Byng Hunt at the Tuesday, July 2, regular Board meeting. “We need to make sure what we envision, an enhanced recreation corridor, materializes.”
Hunt was referring to the Mammoth Mountain land trade and the links that have been made to that trade and June Mountain Ski Area.
Before the Board on Tuesday was the final draft of a letter, composed by Supervisor Tim Alpers, to be signed by all Board members in support of June Mountain’s reopening and improvements, as well as the land trade, and other policies and actions pertaining to the recreation corridor of the Eastern Sierra.
In addition to the Board’s letter, Mono County CAO Jim Leddy had composed a cover letter. The cover letter briefly summarized the Board’s letter, which was lengthier, and clearly stated that the Board supported HR 1241, the land exchange bill.
The cover letter was added to the Board’s letter following its last meeting when MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory stated that the Board’s letter was too long and that the government representatives may not read the entire thing.
Recently, at the pleading of the Committee for a Viable June Mountain, Congressman Paul Cook who sponsored HR 1241, had stated via a letter to the Committee, that he would not be moving forward with the bill until the Committee’s concerns had been addressed.
As MMSA CAO, Ron Cohen stated on Tuesday, “We need the Board of Supervisors support letter to release the hold.”
Supervisor Alpers agreed. “I spoke with Cook’s Chief of Staff who said we needed to put language in to strengthen support of the trade.”
However, fellow Board members felt the cover letter was too wordy and went too far.
“There’s too much information in the cover letter,” said Supervisor Fred Stump. “It dilutes the main letter.”
Cohen also referenced an earlier draft letter that had allegedly been composed on BOS letterhead and seemed to link the land trade and June Mountain together, as a reason why the land trade was being stalled.
Supervisor Alpers was the only board member who seemed to know what Cohen was referring to.
“I laid out a draft letter which I presented to the CAC [June Lake Citizen’s Advisory Committee],” Alpers said.
For the most part, however, the Board only knew of the letter before them on Tuesday, which clearly supported the land trade.
“There aren’t any other projects on the burner that would help the entire county as much as the MMSA land trade,” Alpers said.
Alice Suszynski, the de facto leader of the Committee for a Viable June Mountain, told the Board that only she and fellow Committee member, Patti Heinrich, were appearing before the Board because the rest of the Committee, “is discouraged by the Board’s action.”
She reiterated that the Committee was just asking the Board to hold off on sending its letter for six months in order to see if Gregory made good on his promises for June Mountain.
“Congressman Cook was willing to hold off, but not the Board of Supervisors,” Suszynski said.
She pointed out that the Committee’s concern about holding Gregory’s feet to the fire had not been addressed.
“Rusty Gregory can change his mind tomorrow,” she said. “Endorsing the letter means you have nothing to make him do it [reopen and improve June Mountain].”
Heinrich agreed and asked what the Board’s plan was if Gregory didn’t come through with his promises.
“I see the letter as something to hang over Rusty’s head,” Hunt said. “Rusty is in a trust rebuilding mode. We need to look to what we can do now to help the community and put our trust in this. If it starts breaking apart, I’m willing to step aside and throw stones.”
“I’m satisfied to this point that June will reopen, but not convinced of the rest,” said Supervisor Larry Johnston. “I’ve been told we need to watch what Rusty does, not what he says, so we will. The land exchange is at least five years out, so there’s no economic value in it now.”
Supervisor Tim Fesko added that while the Committee may not feel it had been heard, “Your concerns have played into these decisions in my mind.”
After a slight shortening of the cover letter, the Board approved both cover letter and main letter, unanimously. The letters will be sent to Cook, senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Congressman Buck McKeon.