EVERYBODY V. AMERIGAS
You say want a revolution? All you need is a big corporation with a local monopoly. Stir in a policy change. Put ‘em in a resort community where you line ‘em up against a lot of smart folks with a little bit of time on their hands, and even Vegas isn’t gonna handicap this wrestling match.
The battle against AmeriGas started small but it’s growing. Plaintiffs lined up against the propane provider for a Friday morning court date in Mono County Superior Court now include: Snowcreek IV, Fairway Ranch, Ranch at Snowcreek and individuals William Kerr, Greg Newbry, Greg Cook and Deanna Lantieri.
Visiting Inyo Judge Stephen Place will preside. The case is on for 9:30 a.m.
So what’s going on? The plaintiffs believe Amerigas is attempting to shimmy out of a contractual agreement it inherited when it acquired Turner Propane.
The 1987 contract between original developer Tom Dempsey and Turner Propane gave Turner an exclusive to serve the Snowcreek developments at a fixed rate deal.
Mammoth resident John Stavlo’s explanation via email Thursday morning:
“AmeriGas sent all of the Dempsey development home and condo owners a letter about six months ago saying that the 1987 contract was no longer valid. AmeriGas stated they would start a new pricing policy at the end of April, 2019. This April, they announced their new pricing policy. They have unilaterally raised the price of propane approximately $0.32 per gallon effective May 1. They stated that they planned to raise the price again later this or next year.
AmeriGas claims the 1987 contract that goes with the land of each home and condo owner, recorded on the deed of each property, in the Dempsey developments has been made null and void based on a confidential agreement that they have reached with Chadmar. Chadmar is the successor to Dempsey and AmeriGas is the successor to Turner/Heritage in the original 1987 Dempsey/Turner contract.
Two judges, Magit and Martino, have found in small claims court that the original 1987 Turner/Dempsey contract is valid and AmeriGas is bound by it.”
However, those small claims rulings may have been made before the rumored agreement between AmeriGas and Chadmar.
If Chadmar and AmeriGas are the respective successors to a contract, it would seem both parties can just as easily decide to honor that contract, amend it, or tear it up.
If the contract is null and void, that would appear to leave the Snowcreek developments in the same position as everyone else in town served by the pipeline system governed by a Franchise Agreement AmeriGas holds with the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
AmeriGas is the exclusive provider for that pipeline – its only local competitor, Eastern Sierra Propane, will only service tanks and does not use the pipeline.
As Stavlo further explains, “The franchise agreement allows AmeriGas to charge any other competitor that uses the pipeline $0.32 per gallon of propane that they would deliver to their customers through that pipeline. Not only is the $0.32 per gallon differential make it impossible to compete, but no competitor, e.g. Eastern Sierra Propane wants to be on that pipeline with AmeriGas. The possibility of ‘deep pockets’ lawsuits if an accident happens with the pipeline is an unacceptable risk to any competitor.”
Hmm. Does Stavlo make AmeriGas’s argument here? Does the inherent risk of a ‘deep pockets’ lawsuit warrant the price premium for pipeline service?
Anyway, what we’ll be looking for Friday: Did AmeriGas and Chadmar reach agreement to abandon the 1987 contract?
My favorite moment of the week occurred at the Bishop Council meeting on Tuesday. Bishop Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tawni Thomson was giving a report on the success of Mule Days. In particular, she was impressed by the number of first-time visitors.
Councilwoman Laura Smith then mentioned that she was heading to a League of California Cities meeting and she was hoping Thomson could give her a rough estimate as to the economic impact Mule Days has on Bishop’s economy.
And Thomson did her best to sidestep the question, for a.) she’s not a braggart, and b.) How many people were really here? What did they really spend? Who’s to say? She doesn’t have a lot of voodoo economic formulas at her disposal. No Smarinsights to consult. She eventually tossed out the number $5 million.
Which would have received giggles in Mammoth. Just because Thomson is so … modest. And that’s not Mammoth.
Once Mammoth Lakes Tourism got done calculating all the various economic multiplier effects, it would have had Mule Days at $25 million easy.
I asked Mammoth’s Town Manager Dan Holler about Council’s decision to hand him $2 million with which to make some housing magic.
As Holler explained, he doesn’t have caret blanche with the $2 million.
What he does have is the opportunity to present short-term housing solutions to Mammoth’s Council which it can pursue or reject
“The Parcel [planning] will continue to chug along,” he said. Two years. Three years. We don’t know what that number [time frane] will look like. It will require substantial grant funding. We’re not sure of the scope in terms of units. Current zoning is for 120% of Area Median Income [AMI] or below.”
*An interesting side note. Holler said the AMI in Mono County for a family of four stands at $81,200 right now, ranking Mono among the top 12 counties statewide.
So the $2 million is designated with the hope that Holler and his staff may be able to put some housing in the ground short-term over the next 12-18 months before The Parcel gets rolling.
If no opportunities are identified (some ideas include partnering with private entities to purchase housing, or even buying units outright at certain price points just to take them out of the nightly rental pool), Holler said the powder ($2M) will be kept dry and rolled into The Parcel as the singular project.
But as he says, “If getting additional housing on the ground for our community is truly a high priority of the Town Council, Town staff and the public, it will require the Town to commit financial resources, require creativity in working with the private sector, and require subsidizing projects.”
Finally, congrats to Bishop’s Gigi de Jong, who was named “Writer of the Year” by the Outdoor Writers Association of California at its annual conference a few weeks back.
Gigi also won three first place category awards for writing and photography.
The majority of Gigi’s work is about travel and adventure in and around Bishop, most of which is published on the BishopVisitor.com blog page. She is part of a team to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in the Eastern Sierra. Her articles cover a wide range of things to do and places to see that impressed the judges with the diversity of subjects and quality of writing.
First place was awarded to the website, BishopVisitor.com, in the category Best Outdoor Medium. According the OWAC contest rules, “The OWAC member will be recognized for having submitted the winning entry,” but this award is given to the medium for “the overall excellence of its outdoor reporting.” Best Outdoor Medium is considered to be one of OWAC’s most prestigious awards.