You know when you hear bullshit but you just can’t quite articulate why it’s bullshit – at least when put on the spot?
That’s how I felt last week reading about the Mammoth Ice Rink discussion from the very appropriately timed April Fool’s Day Town Council meeting. The figures quoted by the Town Manager didn’t sound right. Nothing sounded right.
Yes, the philosophy is sound. Sure we want to own the ground on which we’re planning to make a sizable investment. That’s what smart businessmen do, and we have plenty of smart businessmen serving on Town Council.
But as much as they like to parrot that talk of running government like a business, government is not a business. If government were a business, we wouldn’t operate ice rinks.
But alas, we do.
A quote from Vane’s story last week: “Town Public Works Director Grady Dutton said he estimated environmental review for the relocation would take about four months, and that moving the Rink itself would take about two months, at a cost of anywhere between $400,000 and $600,000.
Mr. Dutton, I don’t know what you’re smoking, but maybe we should all try some.
As retired Town Engineer Peter Bernasconi told me at Lions Club this week, the Town has well over $2 million invested in the current site.
The concrete slab work and foundation with refrigerator tubing, according to a 2011 story we did on the rink, cost $922,000 alone. It was paid for by a $500,000 grant and $422,000 in additional Town monies.
The current rink has 48 parking spaces. MMSA’s Tom Hodges said the cost to build aboveground parking, depending on the terrain, is about $5,000/space. Tack on $240,000.
Grading at the current facility cost northward of $600,000.
Bernasconi said an EIR for a new site at Mammoth Creek Park would cost at least $150,000.
Not that anyone at the Town had contacted Bernasconi, who oversaw the current rink project, about what a new site might cost before they decided to throw around numbers at a fraction of reality.
PS. From 2011 reporting in The Sheet, Bernasconi was quoted as saying a slab contract would run 120 days. Last I checked, that’s longer than two months.
Meanwhile, let’s consider the current site. You’ve got a lease for $37,500 a year (vastly below market value) on property that just been appraised for $2 million and property that you have $2 million invested in.
The current lease runs through 2027, with a mutual 10-year option that would take you to 2037. .
Do you seriously want to spend $2 million to save $37,000? Really? These clowns are paying off the airport lawsuit at a rate of 5.75%. Borrow $2 million at that rate and you’re paying $115,000/year. The school district is giving you cheap, cheap financing, and your response is to kick sand in their faces.
You say you don’t want to invest in property owned by someone else. Last I checked, this was the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Unified School District working in partnership. If you can’t invest with your own school district, whom can you invest with? Your own school district isn’t going to screw you. Too bad no one has the same faith in you.
History lesson. back in the early 2000s, the school district purchased property from the Town in the industrial park for a bus garage. The Town insisted on charging the district fair market value .
Then, when it’s the Town’s turn to perform, it insists that the district is supposed to lay down and give away assets without compensation. Further, the Town leads you to believe that somehow the district is being greedy or acting in bad faith.
Mammoth Schools Superintendent Lois Klein is a really nice person. The reason I know she’s nice is because if I were in her position, I’d be vocally pissed off. I’m not even in her position and I’m more than vocally pissed off. I’m irate.
If you abandon the site, you are required to restore that site to its natural condition. Consider: If Mono County’s Environmental Health Director Louis Molina told me this week that clean-up of lots in Swall Meadows was costing between $60,000 and $70,000 per lot, imagine the cost of removing an 85’ x 200’ (17,000-square feet) concrete slab?
Granted, Klein said this weekthat if the Town left, she’d look into the possibility of keeping the concrete and placing some trailers on the site (for pre-K child care facilities) but there’s no guarantee.
When I asked Town Manager Dan Holler this week what he thought a new concrete slab would cost, he told me they had a call into (code for we haven’t called yet) Marzano and Sons (which did the initial project) but according to numbers he’d seen in the Town books, he thought it would cost $165,000.
Nice. Have Dutton make a guess at the last meeting and then do the research afterwards to see if it were a good one.
Took me one search and two minutes on my own website to get a number.
If you think I’m exaggerating regarding the numbers above, consider another Sheet website search (two minutes) which yielded this gem. In July, 2010, Assistant Town Manager Karen Johnston “said it would cost $1.4 million to start on a new site for the rink.”
Here’s the upshot of all this. This Town Council has been seated for nearly a year. It’s time for this Town Council to engage. Clearly, the Town Manager needs some direction and oversight. But maybe he’s just doing what he’s doing because Council has no interest in being anything more than a ceremonial body where each member patiently waits his/her turn to become “Mayor.” For better or worse, Rick Wood liked being Mayor so he could do things. Surely, you want to do more than keep a seat warm for the next guy.
Keep the rink in its current location. Pay the lease. Put a roof on the damn thing this summer. Make it a roof that you can take apart and transport if need be. If you say you don’t have the money for the roof, you’re lying, because you do. All it takes is political will. Take it out of Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s Measure A dollars or TBID dollars if you have to. Consider it a one-time marketing expense.
While you’re at it, 1.) Start angling for the Mammoth Creek Park east site, and 2.) You still have time to acquire the Wood Site. Ice rink roof and a land acquisition and now we’re talking legacy.
I truly have faith in you folks, but damnit, get in the game.