How long must we sing this song?
I’m guessing that none of the members of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council—nor any of those who are in favor of the proposed Multi-Use Facilities Project at Mammoth Creek Park West—own a property or live near the site.
Well, my husband and I do. In fact, our property, which we’ve owned since 2003, is immediately adjacent to the proposed site, and our bedroom window and back deck look out onto what is now a beautiful stand of pine trees.
On pleasant summer evenings, the sound of babbling Mammoth Creek lulls us to sleep. Watching the squirrels and Steller’s Jays from our deck has become a favorite pastime.
The proposed project would take all of that away from us—and from every other tax-paying homeowner in the surrounding area. Moreover, it would put in jeopardy one our greatest natural resources, Mammoth Creek.
We’re not necessarily opposed to the concept of a new ice rink or a new community center—though giving the existing facilities a facelift surely would cost less the than the $10 million (and growing) budget for the proposed new development. That price, by the way, excludes the $2 million plus that it would cost to decommission the existing ice rink site and the cost of likely litigation, estimated to be at least $100,000. One would think that a town owing a $2 million annual payment at 5.7% interest for its airport litigation settlement would be looking for ways to save money rather than spend it so frivolously.
What angers us and our neighbors —to the point of litigation—is the fact that the Town would propose building such a large, commercial-type complex so near to a residential area and to Mammoth Creek. We’ve reviewed the Environment Impact Report, and it’s done little to ease our concerns about this project. In some cases, it’s only made them worse.
Memories are short, so please let me refresh yours with the following excerpt from “These California Cities Could Be Next in Bankruptcy,” USA Today, May 15, 2013:
“Mammoth Lakes. The mountain resort city filed for bankruptcy protection, then withdrew its petition last year after agreeing to a budget restructuring plan making settlement payments on a lawsuit that it lost. A developer, Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition, filed suit charging that the city had breached a 1997 agreement to develop a hotel and condo project.
The Hot Creek project stalled over federal objections that it would be too close to a planned airport runway expansion. A $30 million judgment, plus legal fees, against the city was upheld on appeal, and the city’s liability grew to $42 million, 2.5 times its general fund budget. Standard & Poor’s says the city remains under financial pressure and rates its bonds at junk status.
In October 2015, the Mammoth Lakes Town Council approved the decision to build MUF at Mammoth Creek Park West despite opposition from former Mayor Michael Raimondo and current Mayor Shields Richardson, who said they did not feel the facilities were the best use of public funds.
Mr. Raimondo put it bluntly: “We don’t have any money…. all we’ve done is cut and cut and cut, and now we’re trying to figure out how to spend two million bucks to build a new site.”
Even a supporter of the project, Lynn Alteri-Need, was quoted in an article that appeared in The Sheet in October 2015 saying, “Are we a town that has so much money that we can risk forcing this through?”
And that was when the estimated cost of the project was a mere $1.3 million to $1.5 million.
So far, the Town Council has paid HMC Architects $200,000 for consulting services and has authorized another $250,000 to “further design, enable additional value engineering work and prepare more detailed cost estimates,” which no doubt will be higher than current estimates.
Anyone with reasonable intelligence would ask if that money wouldn’t have been better spent upgrading the Town’s current facilities.
In closing, I’d like to ask you and the members of Mammoth Lakes Town Council if you would like to live right next to MUF at Mammoth Creek Park West, in the building located closest to the proposed mechanical room and a bedroom window and back deck facing the ice rink? If so, we’d be happy to sell you our place.